Mali reports first Ebola death as global toll nears 5,000

Mali reported the first confirmed case of Ebola after a 2-year-old girl died from the infection on Friday, even as the toll of the Ebola epidemic climbed to at least 4,922 out of 10,141 known cases in eight countries, according to figures provided by the World Health Organisation.

Official sources said the girl had returned to the country on 20 October after attending her father's funeral in Guinea, in the company of her grandmother. She started showing symptoms of fever on Tuesday, after which her family admitted her in a local clinic and later at the Kayes regional hospital, as a suspected Ebola case.

Besides the young girl who died of the infection, a total of 23 people, including 12 family members of the young girl and 11 health personnel, have been placed in isolation, reports quoted the director of the Kayes regional hospital in western Mali Dr Toumani Konare as saying.

"Currently, everything is going on well. There has been no appearance of signs among all those who have been placed in isolation," Konare added.

WHO sources have expressed concern about the ability of Mali, one of the world's poorest countries, to contain an outbreak. The WHO said like the girl and her family who travelled through the country by bus, many other passengers could also be in danger of contracting the disease.

While the Ebola outbreak has been concentrated in the West African countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, the contagion also threatens Ivory Coast, the world's biggest cocoa producer, and scattered cases have been reported in the United States and Europe.

The three nations accounted for 4,912 of all deaths to date. The WHO estimated the true toll may be 1.5 times higher in Guinea, 2.5 times higher in Liberia and twice the reported rate in Sierra Leone.

In the United States, meanwhile, health officials in Newark, New Jersey, report that a woman suspected of having the Ebola virus has tested negative. The woman had been quarantined after arriving ill from West Africa, but a test showed no infection. 

The woman will remain quarantined for 21 days, under terms of a program announced Friday by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Governor Chis Christie. Any travellers arriving in the New York area who have had contact with Ebola-infected patients in West Africa will now face the mandatory three-week quarantine.

Another American Ebola patient, Dr Craig Spencer, is being treated in New York, where he recently returned to his home after caring for Ebola victims in Guinea.

Two American nurses who contracted Ebola while caring for a Liberian-American virus victim in Dallas, Texas, have now been declared healthy and virus-free after hospital treatment.

The WHO said Friday it expected hundreds of thousands of doses of Ebola vaccine to be ready by the first half of 2015.

European Union leaders announced Friday they have secured $1.25 billion to help fight the Ebola crisis in West Africa.