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'Ebola likely to enter SA through OR Tambo'

Aaron Motsoaledi was responding to questions from MPs in the National Assembly this afternoon.

Minister of Health Dr Aaron Motsoaledi. Picture: Sapa.

CAPE TOWN - Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi says if Ebola comes to South Africa, it is more likely to enter through Johannesburg's OR Tambo International Airport than by way of the country's porous borders.

Motsoaledi was responding to questions from Members of Parliament (MPs) in the National Assembly this afternoon.

He said South Africa is ready to deal with the deadly virus which is wreaking havoc in West African countries.

The minister said a team of experts meet weekly to advise government on the Ebola threat.

"They say the problems are likely to occur at OR Tambo International Airport and that is why Charlotte Maxeke and Steve Biko hospitals in Gauteng have been given protective clothing equipment because we believe if there's going to be any Ebola in South Africa, it will come through there."

Motsoaledi said designated hospitals are being trained to deal with Ebola cases and are in a high state of readiness with protective suits and guidelines on the diagnosis, isolation and treatment of patients as well as how to deal with fatalities.

He said it's highly unlikely anyone infected with the disease in West Africa could make their way to South Africa over land.

GUINEA DETECTS EBOLA IN NEW REGION

Guinea's government said on Wednesday that Ebola had spread to a previously unaffected region of the country, as US experts warned that the worst ever outbreak of the deadly virus was spiralling out of control in West Africa.

Guinea, the first country to detect the hemorrhagic fever in March, had said it was containing the outbreak but authorities announced that nine new cases had been found in the southeastern prefecture of Kerouane.

The area, some 750 km southeast of the capital Conakry, lies close to where the virus was first detected deep in Guinea's forest region. The epidemic has since spread to four other West African countries and killed more than 1,500 people.

"There has been a new outbreak in Kerouane but we have sent in a team to contain it," said Aboubacar Sikidi Diakité, head of Guinea's Ebola task force. He insisted the outbreak was being contained.

The nine confirmed cases were in the town of Damaro in the Kerouane region, with a total of 18 people under observation, the health ministry said in a statement.

The latest outbreak started after the arrival of an infected person from neighbouring Liberia, the ministry said. Guinea has recorded a total of 489 deaths and 749 Ebola cases as of 1 September.

President Alpha Conde urged health personnel to step up their efforts to avoid new infections.

"Even for a simple malaria, you have to protect yourselves before consulting any sick person until the end of this epidemic," Conde said in a televised broadcast. "We had started to succeed but you dropped the ball and here we go again."

Cases of Ebola have been reported in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Nigeria, Senegal and Democratic Republic of Congo. The cases in Congo, which include 31 deaths, are a separate outbreak unrelated to the West African cases, however, the World Health Organization has said.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY REUTERS