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Sierra Leone faces Ebola setback as 500 quarantined after man's death

Published 30/07/2015

The Ebola virus had been gone from the Northern Tonkolili District of Sierra Leone for five months
The Ebola virus had been gone from the Northern Tonkolili District of Sierra Leone for five months

Five hundred people have been quarantined in Sierra Leone after a man died from Ebola in an area where the deadly virus had been gone for months, in another setback for the fight against the disease.

Hassan Abdul Sesay, a member of parliament from the region, said the victim contracted Ebola in the capital, Freetown, and then travelled to his home village to mark the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Northern Tonkolili District had not had a single case of Ebola in five months, and the World Health Organisation said earlier this week that the lowest number of new cases in a year had been reported in West Africa.

The new case shows, however, how just one sick person can change that. The man was treated for fever at a local hospital but authorities did not call the Ebola emergency number.

Ebola's main symptom is fever, which is also found in more common illnesses such as malaria and typhoid.

Now the 30 nurses who treated him and his entire home village are being quarantined. Authorities are also concerned because the man's father is a taxi driver who took his son to at least two hospitals.

His family and friends buried him without following the special procedures required for Ebola victims to avoid spreading the disease after death.

Nevertheless, authorities expressed optimism that the disease would soon be contained.

"Sierra Leone is on the last lap to get to zero number of cases, and we are bringing in the Sierra Leone police and military to enforce the Ebola by-laws and get people to comply with the restrictions," said retired Major Alfred Palo Conteh, head of the Ebola response centre.

Ebola has killed more than 11,000 people worldwide with nearly all deaths in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

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