Two more people — a patient from Guinea and the nurse who treated him — have died of Ebola in Mali, a government official announced on Wednesday. They are the country’s second and third Ebola deaths since the beginning of the West African epidemic.
However, a later statement from the World Health Organization only confirmed one new Ebola death – that of the nurse. The second new case, presumably of the same man referred to by a Malian official, was described only as a “probable” case of Ebola, because “no samples are available for testing.”
The probable victim was an Imam in his 70’s. The WHO also notes that a friend who visited the patient later “died abruptly” from an undiagnosed disease. Both are considered probable Ebola cases. Testing samples were also unavailable for the second probable victim, WHO writes.
The Imam’s body was returned to Guinea without being tested for Ebola. “Because of his religious status as a Grand Imam, his body was transported to a mosque in Bamako for a ritual washing ceremony,” WHO writes, adding, “The body was then returned to the native village of Kourémalé for formal funeral and burial ceremonies. Although these events are still under investigation, WHO staff assume that many mourners attended the ceremonies.”
According to the BBC, both patients died the Pasteur Clinic in the Malian capital of Bamako.
The patient had recently traveled from Guinea, one of three countries devastated by the epidemic. Communications Minister Mahamadou Camara told the Associated Press that their Ebola diagnosis was confirmed with testing. The clinic is now in quarantine.
The World Health Organization said Wednesday that the nurse was showing Ebola-like symptoms when she was isolated on Monday “following suspicions of Ebola infection in a patient from Guinea who was treated at the clinic in late October.” The nurse, the WHO said, died on Tuesday, and “intensive contact tracing” has begun in both Mali and Guinea.
Neither death was related to the country’s first confirmed case of Ebola, that of a 2-year-old girl who traveled from Guinea to Mali, where she later died of the disease. That case worried health officials after they learned that the child, traveling on public transportation with her grandmother, was symptomatic and therefore contagious when she left Guinea, potentially exposing a large number of people to Ebola.
By the time she was admitted to a medical facility in Mali, the toddler’s symptoms were severe: a 102.2-degree fever, a nose bleed, bloody stools and a cough.
The World Health Organization announced earlier this week that 25 of the 108 identified contacts of the first Ebola patient had completed their 21-day surveillance periods and have been released. So far, none of the contacts of the girl has contracted Ebola. According to the WHO, the child was infected with Ebola after several members of her family died of the illness, which is often undiagnosed.
Her father was a health-care worker with the Red Cross and at a private medical facility, WHO said. He, along with his father, and two of his brothers, died of Ebola, prompting the 2-year-old’s grandmother to travel from Mali to Guinea. She later returned to Mali with the 2-year-old and other members of the family. Shortly after, the toddler was admitted to a hospital for treatment.
Nearly 5,000 people have died in the Ebola outbreak, according to the WHO’s latest count, out of more than 13,000 cases.