* Warns that sick travellers may cross borders
* Ebola outbreak persists in forested areas
* WHO not recommending travel or trade restrictions
* West African health ministers meet next week in Ghana
(Adds details, quotes, byline)
By Stephanie Nebehay
GENEVA, June 27 West African nations
neighbouring those hit by the Ebola epidemic - Mali, Ivory
Coast, Senegal and Guinea Bissau - should prepare for the
possible arrival of travellers carrying the deadly virus, the
World Health Organization said on Friday.
The outbreak persists especially in forested areas of
Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, and its spread is being fueled
by unsafe burial practices that infect relatives handling
bodies, the U.N. agency said.
"We want other countries in West Africa to be ready -
bordering countries, Ivory Coast, Mali, Senegal, Guinea Bissau -
to prepare themselves in case people affected with the disease
may be also travelling," WHO medical officer Dr. Pierre Formenty
told a briefing in Geneva.
Despite efforts by national health authorities and
international aid organisations to contain its spread, the WHO
has recorded 635 infections, including 399 deaths, in Guinea,
Sierra Leone and Liberia since the outbreak began in February.
Some of the sick have travelled to get medical treatment,
spreading the disease to big cities such as the Guinea capital
of Conakry and Liberian capital of Monrovia, Formenty said.
"Roads exist in all of West Africa. There are roads going to
Bamako, going to Abidjan, going to Dakar," he said.
Ebola causes vomiting and diarrhoea, impairs kidney and
liver function and may cause internal and external bleeding.
It kills up to 90 percent of those infected. It is spread by
close contact with the blood, body fluids and tissues of
infected people or high-risk animals such as monkeys. The
incubation period is from 2 to 21 days and there is no treatment
The epidemic is already the deadliest since Ebola first
emerged in central Africa in 1976, and the number of infections
continues to rise.
"In Sierra Leone, the staff are really working very hard to
contain the outbreak, so in terms of statistics we are really
behind ... You should understand that probably the scope of the
outbreak in Sierra Leone is bigger than what we are reporting
today," Formenty said.
The medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said on
Monday that the epidemic is out of control and requires massive
resources from governments and aid agencies to halt its spread.
Health workers have been able to control outbreaks in some
places but it was proving more difficult in some other sites,
partly due to the difficulty of convincing families about the
required changes in behaviour.
"We are not there yet, we shall continue our effort. Because
for me the only way we will succeed is when the people will
understand clearly how dangerous it is for their life to conduct
unsafe burial (practices) during an outbreak of Ebola," he said.
But he added: "This is not out of hand."
He said the U.N. health agency is not considering
recommending travel or trade restrictions on the three
countries, calling them "drastic measures".
"We favour much more the dialogue with the affected family,
the affected village and the affected district, than really
trying to be a sort of sanitary police who would try to control
any movement of the population."
WHO's Regional Director for Africa Luis Sambo on Thursday
called for drastic action to halt what he said has turned into a
West African health ministers are due to meet in Accra,
Ghana on July 2 and 3 to try to coordinate a regional response.
(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)