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Ebola crisis spreads into Senegal

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Senegal has become the fifth West African country to confirm a case of Ebola after a student arrived from neighbouring Guinea carrying the disease.

Health minister Awa Marie Coll Seck said the young man had turned up for treatment at a hospital in the Senegalese capital of Dakar but concealed that he had had close contact with victims in his home country.

She said Guinean authorities said the student, from the Guinean capital of Conakry, had disappeared three weeks ago while under surveillance for having close contact with Ebola victims.

“The results of tests carried out by the Pasteur Institute in Dakar were positive (for Ebola),” the minister said.

The current outbreak of the deadly virus, first detected in the jungles of south-east Guinea in March, is the most severe ever seen.

At least 2,500 people have been infected, with more than 1,550 people killed.

Most of these were in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia but six people have also died in Nigeria.

Senegal is a major hub for the business and aid community in West Africa, with Dakar the regional hub for UN agencies and aid groups serving the Sahel region of West Africa.

The capital also serves as a regional base for many companies, from financial services to banking and tobacco.

In an effort to insulate itself from the current Ebola epidemic, Senegal announced last week it was closing its southern land border with Guinea.

It had also banned flights to and from Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, but not Nigeria.

Different strain of Ebola in Congo

African health officials met in Ghana to discuss their response to the outbreak, which has laid bare the flaws in healthcare across the continent.

It now seems there has also been an outbreak of a different strain of the virus in the Democratic Republic of Congo, close to where Ebola first emerged in the 1970s.

The country declared an Ebola outbreak in its northern Equateur province on Sunday after two out of eight cases tested came back positive for the deadly virus, health minister Felix Kabange Numbi said.

A mysterious disease has killed dozens of people in Equateur in recent weeks but the WHO said on Thursday it was not Ebola.

“I declare an Ebola epidemic in the region of Djera, in the territory of Boende in the province of Equateur,” Mr Kabange Numbi told a news conference.

The region lies about 1,200 kilometres north of the capital Kinshasa.

Mr Kabange Numbi said that one of the two cases that tested positive was for the Sudanese strain of the disease, while the other was a mixture between the Sudanese and the Zaire strain – the most lethal variety.

The West Africa outbreak is the Zaire strain.

The WHO said last week the disease which had killed at least 70 people in Equateur was a kind of hemorrhagic gastroenteritis.

A WHO spokesperson said the UN health agency could not confirm the results of the tests announced on Sunday, which were carried out by the Congolese authorities.

ABC/Reuters