UK employees leave Sierra Leone over Ebola threat

Medecin Sans Frontieres vehicle in Guinea where the Ebola outbreak was first reported Image copyright AFP
Image caption The Ebola outbreak was first reported in Guinea and has spread in west Africa

A number of "non-essential" staff at a British firm in Sierra Leone have left the country following an outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus.

London Mining has restricted some travel to the area but 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 essential staff continued to travel in and out of the country and it was carefully monitoring the health of all of its employees.

But non-essential travel of its staff to the region has been restricted.

The eight staff who had already left the country departed on regular flights, the firm added.

The company is one of two large extraction companies in the country, but the first to reveal that staff have left the region.

Ebola first emerged in central Africa almost 40 years ago. It 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.

Image copyright Science Photo Library

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

Why Ebola is so dangerous

London Mining said in a statement on Monday: "London Mining notes recent reports from Sierra Leone suggesting that an increased number of incidents of Ebola fever have been found in the country.

"The company is not aware of any incidences of the disease among its workforce or in the communities surrounding the Marampa mine.

"However, London Mining is regularly monitoring the situation with Sierra Leone's Ministry of Health and Sanitation, the World Health Organization and other international agencies.

It added: "Following consultation with the relevant authorities, the company has imposed restrictions on travel in the region and continues to work with employees to promote awareness of the disease, including the provision of information on how it is transmitted and the signs and symptoms.

"A number of non-essential personnel have left the country due to voluntary restrictions on non-essential travel.

"London Mining has also established proactive health monitoring of the workforce, including working with trained personnel to screen all staff and visitors entering our sites, and has ensured the Marampa facility has the appropriate medication and equipment to manage any potential occurrences of the disease.

"Production at Marampa is not currently affected".

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