WHO says 82 being monitored for Ebola in Mali, but no new cases of disease

People take part on Oct 26, 2014 in a program about the Ebola virus at the hospital where the first confirmed Ebola patient in Mali died on Oct 24 in Kayes, west of the Malian capital of Bamako. Health workers are monitoring 82 people who had co
People take part on Oct 26, 2014 in a program about the Ebola virus at the hospital where the first confirmed Ebola patient in Mali died on Oct 24 in Kayes, west of the Malian capital of Bamako. Health workers are monitoring 82 people who had contact with a toddler who died of Ebola in Mali last week, but no new cases of the disease have yet been reported, said the World Health Organisation. -- PHOTO: AFP

GENEVA (Reuters) - Health workers are monitoring 82 people who had contact with a toddler who died of Ebola in Mali last week, but no new cases of the disease have yet been reported, World Health Organisation (WHO) spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said on Tuesday.

Three WHO officials are already in the country, having travelled to Mali a week ago to test its Ebola preparedness, and five more are arriving, Jasarevic said.

Mali became the sixth West African country to report a case of the disease, and health officials want to try to contain the virus before it can spread out of control.

It has already killed some 5,000 people in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, but Senegal and Nigeria both stopped the virus in its tracks by tracking down hundreds of people who had contact with the person who first brought it into their country and monitoring them constantly for symptoms.

The girl had travelled with her grandmother hundreds of kilometres by bus from Guinea via Mali's capital and was hospitalised in the western Malian town of Kayes on Oct. 20, but died four days later.

WHO has said the girl already started showing symptoms including fever, vomiting and blood in her stools - and was therefore contagious - before being taken to Kayes.

Jasarevic said the 2-year-old girl's grandmother was "doing OK so far", but the deadly disease can take up to 21 days to show up in a patient, so all the 82 contacts who have been traced, including 11 health workers, will continue to be monitored.

Diplomatic sources have expressed concern about the preparedness of Mali, one of the world's poorest countries, to contain an outbreak. Home to a large U.N. peacekeeping mission, the mostly Muslim country is still battling northern Islamist militants after a brief French-led war last year.

The possibility of setting up a treatment centre in Kayes was being discussed, Jasarevic said, and 40 volunteers had been trained in contact tracing, which is considered one of the key defences against the fast-spreading disease.