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1.12/15  Ebola spreading rapidly in Gabon: Red Cross

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1.12/15  Ebola spreading rapidly in Gabon: Red Cross sg.news.yahoo.com

An outbreak of Ebola fever has claimed 11 lives in northeast Gabon and is spreading rapidly and unpredictably, the international Red Cross warned in Geneva.

Fourteen cases of the deadly haemorrhagic viral disease have been confirmed in Gabon's Ogooue Ivindo Province and 11 of those people have died, according to the latest figures released by the UN World Health Organization here Friday.

The fever first appeared in Ekata village, eight kilometres (five miles) from the border with the Congo Republic, in a region inhabited by pygmies and hunting peoples, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said.

"It then rapidly spread to three other villages: Meddamba, Ntolo and Elaonene. The risk that an epidemic could spread are high, since these villages are linked by road to bigger towns such as Mekambo and Makoku", the federation said in a statement.

Fifty Gabonese Red Cross volunteers with specialist knowledge in handling cases of the highly contagious disease were working alongside other health officials, the statement added. "These volunteers are currently helping authorities to try to track down an infected woman who went to neighbouring Congo in search of a traditional healer," the federation said, quoting emergency aid coordinator Hakan Sandbladh.

There is known no medical cure for Ebola, which is fatal in 50 to 90 percent of cases, depending on the precise strain involved and the treatment available for side-effects.

The WHO on Wednesday said it had identified two sources for Ebola in a village and a nearby forest in Ogooue Ivindo, where some 95 people died in three outbreaks of the virus between 1994 and 1997.