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First Briton contracts Ebola in Sierra Leone

Reuters

A Briton living in Sierra Leone has tested positive for Ebola, the first Briton to fall victim to the deadly disease, which has spread across the West African region since March, the Department of Health said on Saturday.

No further details were immediately available, and it was not known whether there were plans to evacuate the patient.

Ebola, which is passed on by direct contact with the bodily fluids of infected persons, strikes hardest at health care providers and caregivers who work closely with those infected. Dozens of local doctors and nurses have died from the virus in recent months.

Two American aid workers, who contracted Ebola in neighboring Liberia and were then evacuated, recovered from the disease and were released from a hospital in the United States earlier this week.

Fear, stigma and denial have led many families to hide their infected loved ones from health officials. In other instances, patients have been forcibly removed from treatment facilities and isolation centers, creating the risk of the disease’s further spread.

Underreporting of Ebola cases has been a problem particularly in Liberia and Sierra Leone, currently the two countries hardest hit by the virus.

Lawmakers in Sierra Leone on Friday voted overwhelmingly in favour of making the harboring of those infected with Ebola a crime carrying a punishment of two years in prison.

The government of Cote d’Ivoire announced late Friday that it had closed its land borders with Guinea and Liberia to try to prevent the virus from crossing onto its territory. It had previously imposed a ban on flights to and from Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.