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Liberian health authorities confirm two cases of Ebola: WHO

By Alphonso Toweh

MONROVIA (Reuters) - The World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Sunday that Liberia has confirmed two cases of the deadly Ebola virus that is suspected to have killed at least 70 people in Guinea.

The outbreak of the highly contagious Ebola, which in its more acute phase, causes vomiting, diarrhoea and external bleeding, has sent Guinea's West African neighbors scrambling to contain the spread of the disease.

Eleven deaths in towns in northern Sierra Leone and Liberia, which shares borders with southeastern Guinea where the outbreak was first reported, are suspected to be linked to Ebola.

WHO said that as of March 29, seven clinical samples from adult patients from Foya district in Liberia were tested.

"Two of those samples have tested positive for the ebolavirus," the global health organization said in the statement on its website on Sunday, confirming for the first time the cases in country.

"There have been 2 deaths among the suspected cases; a 35 year old woman who died on 21 March tested positive for ebolavirus while a male patient who died on 27 March tested negative," it said.

An official of Liberia's health ministry who requested anonymity said the government was aware and would issue a statement on Monday.

The suspected spread of disease into Liberia and Sierra Leone has stirred concern that one of the most lethal infectious diseases known to man could spread in a poor corner of West Africa, where health systems are ill-equipped to cope.

Authorities in Guinea's northwestern neighbor Senegal closed its land border on Saturday and suspended weekly markets near the borders where fresh produce from Guinea were sold in order to prevent the spread of the Ebola virus.

Sanitary checks have also been introduced on flights between Dakar and the Guinean capital Conakry. Regional airline Gambia Bird has also announced that it will delay the launch of services to Conakry, due to start on Sunday, because of the outbreak.

The World Health Organisation said in the statement it does not recommend any travel or trade restrictions be applied to Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone based on the current information available about the outbreak.

Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people since it was first recorded in 1976 in what is now Democratic Republic of Congo, but this is the first fatal outbreak in West Africa.

(Additional reporting by Bate Felix and David Lewis in Dakar; Writing by Bate Felix; Editing by Eric Walsh)

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