December 19, 2001

New York, December 20, 2001 — In response to an outbreak of Ebola in Gabon, the medical aid organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) this week sent two doctors and a logistician to Mekambo and Makouko, bringing the total number of international MSF staff in Gabon to six. The MSF team will work with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the government of Gabon to set up isolation wards for Ebola patients. These wards will allow Ebola patients to be treated with respect and dignity, and at the same time protect medical personnel and contain the spread of the disease.

In addition to personnel, MSF has sent medical and logistical materials for the construction of the isolation wards, including water sanitation equipment and an Ebola kit with protective gear and medicines.

As of December 16th, the Gabon Ministry of Health has reported 15 suspected and 2 confirmed cases of Ebola, including 12 deaths. There are two main Ebola viruses known to humans -- the Zaire strain with a mortality rate of 70-90%, and the South Sudan strain with a mortality rate of 50-70%. According to the preliminary observations of the WHO team in Gabon, it appears that the Ebola virus spreading in Gabon is of the more fatal Zaire strain.