Equatorial Guinea quarantines 200 after unknown hemorrhagic fever deaths

  • Equatorial Guinea reports at least eight unexplained deaths
  • Symptoms include fever, vomiting blood and diarrhea
  • Cameroon says no cases reported in country so far
  • WHO says it is supporting sample testing

YAOUNDE, Feb 10 (Reuters) - Equatorial Guinea has quarantined more than 200 people and restricted movement after an unknown illness causing hemorrhagic fever killed at least eight people, Health Minister Mitoha Ondo'o Ayekaba said on Friday as the government races to test samples.

The outbreak was reported on Feb. 7, and from preliminary investigations, the deaths were linked to people who all took part in a funeral ceremony, Ayekaba said, adding the government had sent samples to neighbouring Gabon and will send others to Dakar in Senegal for further testing.

Authorities have restricted movement around the two villages that are directly linked, he said, and contact tracing was ongoing. Over 200 people, who are showing no symptoms so far, are quarantined.

"We are trying to quickly as possible rule out the known hemorrhagic fevers we know in the region such as Lassa or Ebola," Ayekaba told Reuters by telephone.

Equatorial Guinea's neighbour Cameroon on Friday restricted movement along its border after the "unexplained deaths", its Health Minister Malachie Manaouda said in a statement.

Cameroon imposed restrictions because of "the high risk of importation of this disease and in order to detect and respond to any cases at an early stage", Manaouda said in a statement.

Investigations are underway and epidemiological surveillance has been strengthened with the support of experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Atlanta Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Manaouda added.

The symptoms of the "non-identified illness" were nose bleeds, fever, joint pain and other ailments that caused death within a few hours, the head of health for the district, Ngu Fankam Roland, said in a statement.

Equatorial Guinea said on Wednesday that it had registered the "unusual epidemiological situation" over the past weeks in Kie-Ntem province's Nsok Nsomo district that caused nine deaths in two adjacent communities over a short period.

Ayekaba said the toll was revised to eight after it was confirmed that one of deaths was not related to the outbreak.

A Cameroon district health official near the border area said around 20 deaths had been recorded on Wednesday in villages in Kie-Ntem province, which borders Cameroon's Olamze district.

He told Reuters on Friday that no cases had been detected or suspected in Cameroon so far.

A World Health Organization spokesperson said the agency was supporting the testing of samples to identify what has caused the deaths and should have results within days.

Reporting by Amindeh Blaise Atabong; Additional reporting by Bate Felix in Dakar, Jennifer Rigby in London and Bernardino Ndze Biyoa in Malabo; Writing by Sofia Christensen and Bate Felix; Editing by Toby Chopra, Christina Fincher and Josie Kao

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