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Seven more deaths linked to Ebola

Seven people believed to have the Ebola virus have died in recent days in the Liberian capital, in the first reported deaths in Monrovia, health officials said.

It brings to 16 the number of people believed to have died from the virus in the West African country since the outbreak began, according to deputy health minister Tolbert Nyenswah.

The deaths are worrying because no new cases had been confirmed in Liberia in more than two months.

The outbreak appears to have begun in neighbouring Guinea and has also spread to Sierra Leone. In all, the World Health Organisation says nearly 250 people have died of the virus, which causes severe bleeding and high fever.

Mr Nyenswah said the new wave of cases is believed to have begun on May 30.

"The first phase of the epidemic was contained. But because of proximity to Guinea and Sierra Leone, we did not declare outbreak over."

Other officials had previously downplayed the significance of the virus jumping borders, saying that it is to be expected since people travel and trade frequently across the borders of the three countries.

One of the seven deaths was a woman who had recently travelled from an infected area in Sierra Leone and is believed to have passed the disease on to others in the house where she was staying in Monrovia.

Fear of the disease, which has no known cure, appears to have helped its spread. There have been several reports of relatives taking sick loved ones out of isolation wards. That makes the work of stopping the disease's spread harder.

The new deaths reported in Liberia and Sierra Leone would push the death toll for the current outbreak to over 250. There is no vaccine and no known cure for Ebola, which causes severe bleeding, although proper care can increase the survival rate.

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