Ebola outbreak: UK staff leave S Leone

FREETOWN- A British firm has evacuated "non-essential" personnel from Sierra Leone following an outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus.

The first company to go public on such a move, London Mining said production at its Marampa mine was unaffected.

It said it was working with local and international agencies to monitor the situation.

The incurable and highly contagious disease was reported in the west African country last week.

There are already about 50 suspected cases in Sierra Leone and five people have died. There have been more than 100 deaths in neighbouring Guinea where the outbreak started, with cases also reported in Liberia earlier this year.

Iron ore company London Mining said it had evacuated what it called non-essential expatriate staff and was carefully monitoring the health of all of its employees.

The company is one of two large extraction companies in the country.

Ebola first emerged in central Africa 20 years ago and kills between 25% and 90% of victims. Symptoms include internal and external bleeding, diarrhoea and vomiting.

It is spread from one person to another by contact with infected blood, bodily fluids or organs or through contact with contaminated environments.

The Sierra Leone government, with help from aid agencies, is doing what it can to isolate known cases.

But late last week the families of several infected patients went to a rural clinic and forcibly removed their relatives.

BBC international development correspondent Mark Doyle says the families apparently wanted to have their loved ones treated by traditional African healers, and this action is bound to have spread the disease further.

Ebola virus disease (EVD)

-Causes severe outbreaks of viral haemorrhagic fever (VHF)

-Fatality rate of up to 90%

-Occurs mostly in remote villages in central and west Africa, near tropical rainforests

-Transmitted to people from wild animals and spreads through human-to-human contact

-Fruit bats are thought to carry the Ebola virus

-No cure or vaccine

Source: World Health Organization