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'Ebola is no laughing matter'

Govt says social media is abuzz with false info and jokes about the virus which has killed thousands.

FILE: South African government has urged the public to stop joking and spreading lies about Ebola on social media. Picture: AFP.

CAPE TOWN - Government has urged the public to stop joking and spreading lies about Ebola on social media.

South African government has since intensified efforts to stop the disease from entering the country, saying all entry points remain on high alert.

Reports emerged on Tuesday that hundreds of tourists who were due to visit South Africa from Thailand, China, Japan and other Asian countries have cancelled their trips.

Government's Bongiwe Gambu condemned these reports saying, they are based on erroneous facts about the virus.

"Social media is abuzz with false information on Ebola, with people making jokes about something as serious as this virus that has killed thousands of people on the continent."

Meanwhile, concern and panic over the disease continues to grow.

Cameroon has closed all its borders with Nigeria in a bid to halt the spread of the virus.

"The government has taken the decision to protect its population because it is much better to prevent than cure the Ebola virus," Minister of Communications and government spokesman Issa Tchiroma Bakary told Reuters.

Several airlines have also stopped flights to West Africa, the genesis of the epidemic.

The virus has killed more than 1,200 people in four West African countries.

LIBERIA FIGHTS EBOLA IN CAPITAL

Liberia are battling to halt the spread of the disease in its crowded, run-down oceanside capital Monrovia, recording the most new deaths as fatalities from the world's worst outbreak of the deadly virus rose above 1,200.

The epidemic of the hemorrhagic disease, which can kill up to 90 percent of those it infects, is ravaging the three small West African states of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, and also has a toehold in Nigeria, Africa's biggest economy.

As the Geneva-based World Health Organisation rushed to ramp up the global response to the outbreak, including emergency food deliveries to quarantined zones.

On a more hopeful note, the WHO expressed "cautious optimism" that the spread of the Ebola outbreak in Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation where four deaths out of 12 confirmed cases have been recorded since July, could be stopped.

It also described the situation in Guinea, where the virus made its first appearance in West Africa in December, as currently "less alarming" than in Liberia and Sierra Leone.

The WHO said it was working with the UN's World Food Programme (WFP) to ensure food delivery to 1 million people living in Ebola quarantine zones cordoned off by local security forces in a border zone of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

"Providing regular food supplies is a potent means of limiting unnecessary movement," it said in a statement.

The WHO declared the West African Ebola outbreak a "public health emergency of international concern" on 8 August, triggering global alarm as countries stepped up precautions and testing.

Additional reporting by Reuters