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Friday, 11 January, 2002, 16:37 GMT
Ebola medics blocked in Gabon
Medical workers during the 1995 outbreak of ebola
The WHO said the medical staff would return once it was safe
International health experts are holding talks with local officials in Gabon to try to arrange the safe return of a medical team to an area hit by the deadly disease Ebola.

A World Health Organisation official, Gregory Hartl, expressed concern that the 17-member international team was unable to monitor about 200 people who had been in contact with Ebola victims.

Hospital in Uganda
The last outbreak in the region killed 224 people
Recently the team had to leave Mekambo, a jungle town about 750 kilometres (465 miles) north-east of the capital, Libreville, amid local hostility to its attempts to stop traditional practices that could spread the disease.

There have been 34 confirmed cases reported so far, including 25 deaths - 18 in Gabon and seven in the Republic of Congo. Another 200 people are being closely monitored.

Infected apes suspected

The viral infection begins with flu-like symptoms and then attacks the internal organs, leading to bloody diarrhoea and vomiting.

Death generally follows within two weeks due to blood loss.

The source of the virus is unknown, but it is thought to spread to humans who kill and eat infected apes and monkeys.

Many of these have been reported dead in the forests around Mekambo.

The government has tried seal off the Ogooue-Ivindo province to stop the disease and banned consumption of ape meat.

There is currently no cure but because the virus often kills its victims more quickly than it can spread, outbreaks tend to be quite small.

According to the WHO, the international team has temporarily relocated to Makokou - about 180km (112 miles) south-west of their original position, but hope to return as soon as it is safe.

See also:

06 Jan 02 | Africa
Gabon moves to contain ebola
17 Dec 01 | Africa
UN medics tackle Ebola in Gabon
10 Dec 01 | Africa
Ebola confirmed in Gabon
27 Feb 01 | Africa
Uganda Ebola free
20 Oct 00 | Medical notes
Ebola and other tropical viruses
18 Oct 00 | Health
Africa's emerging virus threat
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