FREETOWN (Reuters) - Ebola has killed at least two people in what was the last remaining district in Sierra Leone unaffected by the virus, a government health officer said on Thursday.
Sierra Leone is one of three West African nations at the epicenter of the worst outbreak of the disease on record which has killed close to 4,500 people since first appearing in the Guinean forest last December.
As Ebola spread across the rest of Sierra Leone, locals in the far northern Koinadugu district had tried to block movement in and out of the area to stop anyone bringing in the hemorrhagic fever.
However, disease surveillance officer Abdul K. Sesay said two of six samples taken from the village of Fankoya, where suspicious deaths had been recorded, tested positive on Wednesday.
“We have tightened surveillance around the area and are investigating ... how the two confirmed cases might have contracted the disease,” said Sesay.
Local and international health authorities are scrambling teams and supplies to help West African nations but, as of now, there are no Ebola treatment centers in Sierra Leone’s north.
“On Friday we will burn the house in which the two confirmed cases lived, and the two houses nearby to it,” said District Task Force representative Momoh Konteh.
He said the bodies of any future Ebola victims in the region would be cremated to contain the outbreak, regardless of the customs of the majority Muslim population.
In a rare piece of good news, Liberia’s chief medical officer and deputy health minister Bernice Dahn ender her 21-day Ebola quarantine without signs of infection, officials said.
Dahn placed herself in isolation as a precaution after one of her assistants died of the disease.
The U.S. Agency for International Development’s administrator Rajiv Shah met with Guinean President Alpha Conde late on Wednesday and pledged to help build a new diagnostic and treatment center in Guinea, the presidency said.
Reporting by Umaru Fofana; Writing by Emma Farge; Editing by David Lewis/Ruth Pitchford