CONAKRY, GUINEA: Ebola, one of the world’s most deadly viruses, has spread from a remote forested corner of southern Guinea to the country’s seaside capital, raising fears that the disease, which causes severe bleeding and almost always death, could spread far beyond the tiny West African nation’s borders.
In the first outbreak of its kind there, Ebola already has killed at least 70 people, including one man whose family took him to Conakry, the capital, for medical treatment. Now six of his relatives and two others exposed to him are being kept in isolation at a hospital.
Health officials warn that the arrival of Ebola in the sprawling city of some 2 million people could spell disaster. Among the poorest countries in the world, Guinea has severely limited medical facilities and a large population living in slums where the virus could spread quickly.
“Poor living conditions and lack of water and sanitation in most parts of Conakry poses a serious risk of this epidemic spiraling into a crisis,” said Ibrahima Toure, country director for the aid group Plan International.
Panic already has grown among residents since the government announced the Conakry cases Thursday. While most days up to 300 patients seek treatment at Donka Hospital, less than 100 came on Friday as news spread that the Ebola patients were being quarantined there.
“My daughter is sick and coughing but I prefer to keep her at home. I wouldn’t set foot inside Donka Hospital for anything in the world right now,” said Djalikatou Balde, a teacher.
Aid groups like Doctors Without Borders and Plan International are trying to educate Guineans about how the disease is spread, and working to identify and isolate anyone who may have been exposed.