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First Ebola case appears in Mali

 

 

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The Mali government has confirmed the first case of Ebola in the country.

It said a two-year-old girl had tested positive for the haemorrhagic virus. She recently returned from neighbouring Guinea.

More than 4,800 people have died of Ebola – mainly in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone – since March.

Meanwhile, an international team of scientists has been set up to determine the effectiveness of using the blood of Ebola survivors as a treatment.

It is hoped the antibodies used by the immune system to fight Ebola can be transferred from a survivor to a patient. The study will start in Guinea.

People are afraid in Mali’s capital, Bamako, but life is carrying on as normal. Shops are open and the streets are as busy as ever.

A few people have stopped shaking hands but physically greeting people is an important part of life in Mali and for most people, this has not changed.

Some hotels have placed bottles of anti-bacterial gels at their entrances but for ordinary Malians, gel remains too expensive. Since the outbreak began in neighbouring Guinea, the government has been running public information broadcasts telling people to wash their hands with soap. But even though soap is not expensive, most people still wash their hands with water alone.

Many Malians have friends and family in Guinea and several buses and taxis still travel between the two countries each day. The bus station was as full as ever earlier this week.

With the support of the World Health Organization, Mali’s health system has been preparing for an outbreak of Ebola for several months and Nigeria and Senegal have shown how to contain Ebola.

But there is a culture here of visiting people when they are sick to wish them a speedy recovery.

This will have to change if Ebola becomes more widespread but Mali is quite a conservative society, where customs and habits only change slowly.

Speaking on state television on Thursday, Malian Health Minister Ousmane Kone said the infected girl was being treated in the western town of Kayes.

She was brought to a local hospital on Wednesday and her blood sample was Ebola-positive, Mr Kone said.

The child and those who have come into contact with her have been put in quarantine.

The girl’s mother died in Guinea a few weeks ago and the child was then brought by relatives to Mali, Reuters news agency quoted a health ministry official as saying.

Mali is now the sixth West African country to be affected by the latest Ebola outbreak – however Senegal and Nigeria have since been declared virus-free by the World Health Organization (WHO).

With porous borders, countries neighbouring Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia are on high alert for possible imported cases of the virus, says BBC Africa health correspondent Anne Soy.

Separately, the WHO has already identified at least two experimental vaccines which it believes could be promising.

At a meeting in Geneva, the UN health body said it wanted tests of the vaccines to be completed by the end of December.

The WHO says 443 health workers have contracted Ebola, of whom 244 have died

 

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