* Geographical spread of Guinea Ebola outbreak a worry -MSF
* Resist panic and rumours, president tells his nation
* Neighbours close borders, restrict travel and step up
* Deadliest outbreak of Ebola in years
By Saliou Samb
CONAKRY, March 31 Guinea faces an Ebola epidemic
on an unprecedented scale as it battles to contain confirmed
cases now scattered across several locations that are far apart,
medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres said on Monday.
The warning from an organisation used to tackling Ebola in
Central Africa comes after Guinea's president appealed for calm
as the number of deaths linked to an outbreak on the border with
Liberia and Sierra Leone hit 80.
The outbreak of one of the world's most lethal infectious
diseases has spooked a number of governments with weak health
systems, prompting Senegal to close its border with Guinea and
other neighbours to restrict travel and cross-border exchanges.
Figures released overnight by Guinea's health ministry
showed that there had been 78 deaths from 122 cases of suspected
Ebola since January, up from 70. Of these, there were 22
laboratory confirmed cases of Ebola, the ministry said.
"We are facing an epidemic of a magnitude never before seen
in terms of the distribution of cases in the country," said
Mariano Lugli, coordinator of MSF's project in Conakry.
The organisation said it had been involved in nearly all
other recent Ebola outbreaks, mostly in remote parts of central
African nations, but Guinea is now fighting to contain the
disease in numerous locations, some of which are hundreds of
"This geographical spread is worrisome because it will
greatly complicate the tasks of the organisations working to
control the epidemic," Lugli added.
The outbreak of Ebola - which has a fatality rate of up to
90 percent - has centred around Guinea's southeast. But it took
authorities six weeks to identify the disease, allowing it to
spread over borders and to more populated areas.
APPEAL FOR CALM
Cases were last week confirmed in Conakry, bringing the
disease - previously limited to remote, lightly-populated areas
- to a sprawling seaside capital of two million people.
Guinea's President Alpa Conde late on Sunday appealed for
calm. "My government and I are very worried about this
epidemic," he said, ordering Guineans to take strict precautions
to avoid the further spread of the disease.
"I also call on people not to give in to panic or believe
the rumours that are fuelling people's fears," he added.
Liberia has recorded a total of seven suspected and
confirmed cases, including four deaths, the World Health
Organisation said. Sierra Leone has reported 5 suspected cases,
none of which have been confirmed yet.
Brima Kargbo, Sierra Leone's chief medical officer, said a
screening process had been introduced on the country's northern
border with Guinea. Travellers are being asked where they are
coming from and whether they or anyone they had been in contact
with had fallen ill, he said.
Senegal, another neighbour of Guinea's, closed its land
border over the weekend and has suspended weekly markets near
the border to prevent the spread of the disease.
Regional airline Gambia Bird delayed the launch of services
to Conakry, due to start on Sunday, because of the outbreak.
If the deaths are all confirmed as Ebola, a disease that
leads to vomiting, diarrhoea and external bleeding, it would be
the most deadly epidemic since 187 people died in Luebo, in
Congo's Kasai Orientale province, in 2007.
(Additional reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva and Umaru
Fofana in Freetown; Writing by David Lewis; Editing by Tom