Health officials in Mali are reporting that three patients may have contracted the Ebola virus, raising fears that the deadly virus will spread beyond Guinea and Liberia -- where it has already claimed at least 90 lives.
Malian authorities said they're waiting for test results to return from a U.S. lab to confirm whether the three patients, currently isolated and under observation, have the virus. The government said in a statement that "a high-speed intervention team has been created to follow the evolution of the situation on the ground."
A BBC correspondent confirms that Mali is taking the threat seriously, controlling movement into the capital of Bamako from the nearby Guinea border, and using thermal-imaging cameras to scan people landing at the airport.
The World Health Organization maintains that the outbreak shouldn't affect travel, but that hasn't stopped governments from proceeding with extreme caution in that area. An Air France flight entering Paris from Guinea was quarantined for two hours due to fears that one passenger was infected, and Saudi Arabia has suspended the visas of Muslims hoping to make pilgrimage from Mali and Guinea. Reuters reports that other countries are also on alert:
The latest outbreak originated in Guinea two months ago and has since spread to its neighbors Sierra Leone and Liberia. Gambia has placed two people in quarantine although the health ministry since said the cases were negative.
According to Agence France-Presse, health care experts are still trying to figure out how this strain of the virus arrived in West Africa. The University of Texas Medical Branch's Thomas Geisbert told AFP that ""When I heard about the outbreak, my initial suspicion was that it could be the Ivory Coast species. It turned out to be the Zaire species, which has never been connected with West Africa." He added, "I am very concerned, because I think we still don't know how the virus got into this region or the size of the boundaries of the affected area."