Ebola Spreads to Mali

Ebola Update: Mali confirms first infection case

23 October 2014

Despite health officials in Mali checking people returning from the Ebola-hit countries in West Africa, the Mali government has confirmed the first case of Ebola in the country today.

A two-year-old girl had tested positive for the virus. She recently returned from neighboring Guinea. Patient Zero, the first known case of this new strain of Ebola that’s ravaging West Africa, was also a 2-year-old who died in December 2013 in Guédéckou, Guinea near where the borders of guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia intersect.

Almost 10,000 cases have since occurred, and 4,800 people have died of Ebola – mainly in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone – since March 2014.

Speaking on state television on Thursday, Malian Health Minister Ousmane Kone said the infected girl was being treated in the western town of Kayes.

Kayes is near the border of Guinea-Bissau, 612 km (380 mi) by road from Bamako, and only 96 km (60 mi) from the border with Senegal.

Mali is now the sixth West African country to be affected by the latest Ebola outbreak. Nigeria and Senegal contained their small numbers of cases very quickly and efficiently, and are for the time-being Ebola-free. Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone continue to experience exponential growth of the disease. Although the northern areas of Guinea have been the least hard-hit, they have reported cases, and the spread of Ebola across its porous borders with Mali and/or Guinea-Bissau was just a matter of time.

Kayes is nicknamed the “pressure cooker of Africa” due to its extreme heat. The town has been described as the hottest continuously inhabited town in Africa. The average daily high temperature in the city is 36 °C (97 °F), with temperatures usually peaking in April and May at an average of nearly 42 °C (108 °F).

Once a small village, it became the capital of French Sudan before being replaced by Bamako. It is still a hub for Senegalese commerce, and its proximity to Senegal and Bamako are a concern regarding further spread of Ebola transmission.

Kayes, Mali 2006

Kayes, Mali 2006

The second peak of Ebola in Sierra Leone is linked to viral spread to Kenema, a large city of an estimated 188,463 people (pre-ebola). Ebola occurring in Kayes, with a population of 127,368 in 2009, is of major concern. Also, it has an international airport, facilitating translocation of cases.

At the SE end of the infected region, as we’ve already noted, the only barrier keeping Ebola out of Ivory Coast is the Cavalla River. Given the porosity of the (closed) borders between Ivory Coast, Guinea, and Liberia, and the historical ease of migration across the borders as seen during the conflicts of the 1990s, it is odd that Ivory Coast has not yet reported a case. Underreporting may be at play.

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