CONAKRY, Guinea — Ebola, one of the world's most deadly viruses, has spread from a remote forested corner of southern Guinea to the country's seaside capital, raising fears that the disease, which causes severe bleeding and almost always death, could spread far beyond this tiny West African nation's borders.
In the first outbreak of its kind here, Ebola already has killed at least 70 people.
Health officials warn that the arrival of Ebola in this sprawling city of some 2 million people with an international airport could spell disaster. Among the poorest countries in the world, Guinea has severely limited medical facilities and a large population living in slums where the virus could spread quickly.
"Poor living conditions and lack of water and sanitation in most parts of Conakry poses a serious risk of this epidemic spiraling into a crisis," said Ibrahima Toure, country director for the aid group Plan International.
Panic already has grown among residents since the government announced the Conakry cases late Thursday on national television.
International aid groups like Doctors Without Borders and Plan International are trying to educate Guineans about how the disease is spread.
There is no cure for the disease and the virus strain in Guinea has a fatality rate of up to 90 percent. Some 111 people have fallen ill already and authorities in neighboring Liberia and Sierra Leone are also investigating suspected cases.
The number of people possibly contaminated expanded exponentially when the Conakry patient traveled some 300 miles across the country in search of help.
"People are getting desperate as every other day somebody is dying," said a program unit manager with Plan International. "People are saying only God can save us now."