Second person dies from Ebola virus in Sierra Leone

FREETOWN (AFP) - A woman in Sierra Leone has died from the Ebola virus, a health ministry official announced on Wednesday, the second person in the west African country to succumb to the haemorrhagic fever.

"One of the seven Ebola patients, a woman admitted at the Isolation Centre in the Government Hospital in Kenema, died on Tuesday," Dr Brima Kargbo, the chief medical officer, told AFP in a telephone interview.

The woman died on Tuesday. The six other patients affected were "undergoing treatment", added Dr Kargbo.

The announcement of the death comes two days after Sierra Leone confirmed its first fatality from Ebola.

In response, Sierra Leone said it was restricting travel in some areas to stop the deadly virus spreading.

Ministers reaffirmed an earlier ban on trips to attend funerals in the neighbouring country of Guinea, the epicentre of the West African outbreak, which officials attribute for the recent spread.

Authorities also urged the public to remain "vigilant".

The eastern regions of Kailahun, where the first case was confirmed, and Kenema have been designated as "high risk".

Officials have arrived in the area to encourage residents to cooperate with health workers.

"We are only keeping a watchful eye and not searching people," a police sergeant told AFP.

The deadly haemorrhagic fever, which has no cure, erupted in Guinea in January where it claimed 81 lives - according to government figures released three weeks ago - and also spread to Liberia.

Ebola is one of a handful of similar fevers that cause vomiting, diarrhoea, muscle pain, and in severe cases, organ failure and unstoppable internal bleeding.

It can be transmitted by blood and other bodily fluids, as well as the handling of contaminated corpses or infected animals.

West African authorities have been scrambling to stop mourners from helping it to spread by touching bodies of the dead during traditional funeral rituals.

The World Health Organisation has described the region's first Ebola outbreak as one of the most challenging since the virus was first identified in 1976 in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo.

According to a May 23 statement by the WHO, 258 cases of viral haemorrhagic fever, of which 174 have resulted in deaths, have been reported in Guinea.