Guinea has received confirmation that a mysterious disease that has killed 59 people in the West African country, and may have spread to neighboring Sierra Leone, is the hemorrhagic fever Ebola, the government said Saturday.
Cases of the disease — among the most virulent pathogens known to infect humans, with a fatality rate of up to 90 percent — have been recorded in three southeastern towns and in the capital Conakry since Feb. 9. It has never before been recorded in Guinea.
"It is indeed Ebola fever. A laboratory in Lyon (France) confirmed the information," Damantang Albert Camara, a government spokesman, told Reuters. He updated the death toll, which had previously stood at 34.
World Health Organization officials said that cases showing similar symptoms, including fever, diarrhea, vomiting and bleeding, had also been reported in an area of Sierra Leone near the border with Guinea.
A Sierra Leone health official said Saturday that authorities there were running tests to determine if the cases were part of the epidemic in Guinea.
Sakoba Keita, the doctor in charge of the prevention of epidemics in Guinea's Health Ministry Wednesday said he first thought it was Lassa fever or another form of cholera "but this disease seems to strike like lightning." He said that most of the victims had been in contact with the deceased or had handled the bodies, but that those infected had been isolated.
More than half of the mineral-rich nation's 11.4 million people live on less than $1 a day and many lack access to basic medical facilities and qualified medical staff.
The highly contagious disease, which is transmitted between humans through contact with organs, blood, secretions or other bodily fluids, is most commonly found in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda and South Sudan.
Al Jazeera and Reuters