Equatorial Guinea quarantines 200 after unknown deaths from hemorrhagic fever

By Amindeh Blaise Atabong

YAOUNDE (Reuters) – Equatorial Guinea has quarantined more than 200 people and restricted movement after an unknown disease that causes hemorrhagic fever killed at least eight people, Health Minister Mitoha Ondo’o Ayekaba said on Friday as the government tested samples .

The outbreak was reported on February 7 and, according to preliminary investigations, the deaths were linked to people who all attended a memorial service, Ayekaba said, adding the government had sent samples to neighboring Gabon and will send others to Dakar in the Senegal send more tests.

Authorities have restricted movement in the two villages, which are directly linked, he said, and contact tracing is ongoing. Over 200 people who have not shown any symptoms so far are being quarantined.

“We’re trying to rule out the known hemorrhagic fevers that we know of in the region, like Lassa or Ebola, as soon as possible,” Ayekaba told Reuters by phone.

Equatorial Guinea’s neighbor Cameroon restricted movement along its border on Friday following the “unexplained deaths,” its Health Minister Malachie Manaouda said in a statement.

Cameroon imposed restrictions because of “the high risk of introducing this disease and to detect and respond to cases early,” Manaouda said in a statement.

Investigations are ongoing and epidemiological surveillance has been stepped up with support from experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Atlanta Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Manaouda added.

Symptoms of the “unidentified disease” included nosebleeds, fever, joint pain and other ailments, which led to death within hours, district health chief Ngu Fankam Roland said in a statement.

Equatorial Guinea said on Wednesday that it had registered the “unusual epidemiological situation” in Nsok Nsomo district of Kie-Ntem province in recent weeks, which has caused nine deaths in a short period of time in two neighboring communities.

Ayekaba said the toll was revised to eight after confirming one of the deaths was not related to the outbreak.

A health official from the Cameroonian district near the border area said around 20 deaths were recorded on Wednesday in villages in Kie-Ntem province, which borders Cameroon’s Olamze district.

He told Reuters on Friday that no cases had been detected or suspected in Cameroon so far.

A World Health Organization spokesman said the agency supports testing samples to determine what caused the deaths and should have results within days.

(Reporting by Amindeh Blaise Atabong; Additional reporting by Bate Felix in Dakar, Jennifer Rigby in London and Bernardino Ndze Biyoa in Malabo; Writing by Sofia Christensen and Bate Felix; Editing by Toby Chopra, Christina Fincher and Josie Kao)


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