France on Ebola alert as cases spread from Guinea to Mali, Liberia, Sierra Leone
French doctors have been placed on alert against the deadly Ebola virus on Thursday in case an outbreak in west Africa spreads to France. No cases have been reported in the country but an outbreak in Guinea has killed 84 people and spread to neighbouring countries.
France maintains close links with its former colonies in the region and there is frequent air travel by immigrants and staff of multinational firms.
While insisting that there was no reason for particular concern in France, Social Affairs Minister Marisol Touraine warned travellers to take care.
"When there is a dangerous outbreak abroad, we consult our partners in the World Health Organisation to see if we should block travel to affected areas," she told the i-Télé TV channel. "Today there is no need to impose restrictions but travellers in the affected countries, Guinea in particular, must take a number of precautions."
France's health authorities have told doctors, hospitals and ambulance crews to look out for the symptoms and treat them as quickly as possible.
"The situation demands vigilance, and that's why we've organised this information campaign to mobilise health professionals," Touraine said.
The disease, which has a 90 per cent fatality rate, broke out two months ago in Guinea and has spread to neighbouring Liberia and Sierra Leone.
Gambia has placed two people in quarantine and on the first cases were reported in Mali on Thursday.
It can spreak between humans through contact with another's blood, faeces or sweat.
The World Health Organisation said Wednesday it was monitoring 44 cases.
On Thursday officials announced that a man had died from rabies in a hospital in the Paris region.
The man contracted the illness during a visit to Mali and no other cases have been reported in France.