Mali on Saturday confirmed a new case of Ebola and said two more suspected patients are being tested, raising concern about further spread of the disease, which has already killed at least six people in the country. The patient who tested positive “was placed in an isolation center for intensive treatment,” said a government statement released Saturday. No details about the patient were provided.
As of Nov. 20, Mali officials were monitoring 310 people in the chain of transmission. Mali’s six confirmed Ebola deaths are linked to a 70-year-old Muslim imam who was brought to the capital, Bamako, from Guinea, where the regional Ebola epidemic first began. According to Reuters, the man — identified as Koita — was ill upon arrival in Mali but managed to slip through a checkpoint with the help of a local village chief. He later died, but it would take health officials 18 days to identify Ebola as the cause of death.
For nearly a year, Mali had been spared the virus now blamed for killing more than 5,000 people across West Africa despite the fact the country shared a porous land border with Guinea, the country where the first cases emerged. So far, no one who has contracted the deadly pathogen in Mali has survived.
Ebola, one of the deadliest viruses known to man, is spread through direct contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person showing symptoms such as fever or vomiting. People caring for the sick or handling the bodies of the infected are particularly vulnerable.
The World Health Organization says more than 15,000 people have been infected in the current outbreak, mainly in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Recent data have shown signs of slowing transmission in parts of Liberia — the worst-hit country — but last week, 533 new cases were reported in Sierra Leone — the highest weekly tally since the epidemic began in that country. Meanwhile, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said earlier this week that the virus “is flaring up in new villages [and] new locations” across the region.
On Friday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon expressed concerns over the spread of Ebola in Mali and announced that the international body was expanding its Ebola emergency mission to the country in a bid to prevent further outbreaks.
“Decisive national action combined with international support today will help to prevent a spread of the outbreak in Mali to crisis proportions tomorrow,” he said.