The World Health Organization said Thursday that Mali, a West African country, has suffered six official cases of Ebola, with five of them proving fatal.
U.S. officials and the global aid community are keeping a close eye on the cluster of cases in Mali, which borders hard-hit Guinea and represents a new front in the fight against the wily virus that has killed more than 5,000.
WHO said it could confirm five of the six Mali cases in the lab, although one remains “probable” because it had no samples for testing.
The cases divide along two tracks. In the first, a 2-year-old carried the virus from Guinea and died in Mali on Oct. 24.
The other cases stem from a 70-year-old grand imam who traveled from Guinea to the Pasteur Clinic in Mali’s capital, Bamako, on Oct. 25 for treatment after he developed symptoms of an unknown disease. He died two days later, although his case is classified as a Guinea case because that’s where he got sick.
But the imam’s case is linked directly to three Mali infections and indirectly to two more, WHO said.
A 25-year-old male nurse who cared for the imam died Nov. 11. Also, a doctor who works at the clinic developed symptoms Nov. 5 and tested positive Nov. 12. He is getting treatment.
A 51-year-old friend who visited the imam fell sick on Nov. 7 and died three days later. He is Mali’s lone probable cause, as his situation was not diagnosed.
That friend’s visit led to two additional cases and deaths, WHO said.
A 57-year-old woman who had direct contact with the imam’s friend developed symptoms Oct. 29 and died Nov. 12. Her son visited a clinic on Nov. 5 and then died at home Nov. 14.
WHO says there is a massive effort underway to track the chain of transmission. So far, 303 of the 338 possible contacts have been placed under surveillance.
Nigeria and Senegal were able to trace and stamp out the virus, giving WHO hope.
• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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