January 8, 2009 / 2:45 PM / 11 years ago

Angola widens border closure with DRC over Ebola

(Adds health minister spokesman, WHO source)

LUANDA, Jan 8 (Reuters) - Angola has increased border restrictions with the Democratic Republic of Congo where an outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus is believed to have infected 40 people and killed 13.

A health ministry spokesman said on Thursday migratory movements between part of Angola’s eastern province of Moxico and Congo were suspended, days after authorities closed the border of its Lunda Norte province with the country.

"These measures are being carried out locally to protect the population from the Ebola virus," said Carlos Alberto, a spokesman for the health minister in Luanda, adding that no signs of the virus had yet been found in Angola.

The outbreak of the Ebola virus is believed to have taken place in Congo’s Western Kasai province in November. The viral haemorrhagic fever is one the deadliest in the world, killing 50 to 90 percent of its victims.

Health Minister Jose Van-Dunem has urged the military and police to be on alert for any possible signs of the virus in provinces along the border with Congo.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) representative in Angola, Diosdado Nsue-Micawg, told Reuters he feared the Ebola virus may have come from dead monkeys in Congo’s forests.

Another WHO source said the threat of the disease spreading to Angola remained high, noting the strong family, cultural and trade links between communities along both sides of the border of the two African nation.

The Ebola virus is transmitted by contact with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected people.

Burial ceremonies where mourners have direct contact with the body of the deceased person can play a significant role in the transmission of Ebola. Health care workers have frequently been infected while treating Ebola patients.

In 2005 329 people died in Angola’s northern town of Uige, close to the border with Congo from a cousin to Ebola known as the Marburg virus. (Reporting by Henrique Almeida; Editing by Janet Lawrence)



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