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‘Ebola won’t spread to SA’

The NICD says the only way to contract the virus is through infected blood or tissue.

A member of Doctors Without Borders (MSF) putting on protective gear at the isolation ward of the Donka Hospital in Conakry, where people infected with the Ebola virus are being treated. Picture: AFP.

CAPE TOWN - There's no need for panic over an Ebola outbreak spreading to South Africa, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) said on Wednesday.

The disease broke out in West Africa several months ago and has claimed the lives of more than 600 people in three countries.

The Ebola virus, which is fatal in 90 percent of cases, has claimed the lives of more than 670 people in Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Nigeria.

The institute's Lucille Bloomberg says the only way to contract the virus is through infected people's blood or tissues.

"It's really people caring for patients in their home, preparing bodies for burials that puts you at risk. So just travelling to that area is not a risk. People need to remember to protect themselves from malaria which is a common disease in that area."

DEADLY VIRUS

On Sunday, the Liberian government closed most of the West African nation's border crossings and introduced stringent health measures to curb the spread of the deadly virus.

This comes as the fatality rate of the current outbreak is around 60 percent.

Ebola is highly contagious, especially in the late stages. Its symptoms include vomiting and diarrhoea as well as internal and external bleeding.

The outbreak has placed a great strain on the health systems of some of Africa's poorest countries.

A 33-year-old American doctor working for relief organisation Samaritan's Purse in Liberia tested positive for the disease on Saturday.

The charity said on Sunday a second American, who was helping a team treating Ebola patients at a case management centre in Monrovia, had also tested positive.

Samuel Brisbane, a senior Liberian doctor, who was also treating infected patients, has died after contracting the virus, authorities said on Sunday.

In Nigeria's commercial capital Lagos, a Liberian man who tested positive died on Friday.