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EBOLA

Ebola scare sees plane quarantined in Paris

An Air France plane from the Ebola-hit west African country of Guinea was quarantined in Paris for two hours Friday after the crew suspected a passenger may have the deadly disease, the airline said. It comes after France introduced measures to prevent the spread of the disease.

Ebola scare sees plane quarantined in Paris
Photo: Vincent Desjardins/Flickr

The flight from the Guinean capital Conakry landed at Paris's Charles De Gaulle airport at 5:28 am (03:28 GMT) with 187 passengers and 11 crew members on board.

Emergency services conducted checks for fever on all those travelling after a dirty toilet sparked concern that a passenger could be infected with the deadly and highly contagious disease, which apart from other symptoms triggers severe diahorrea.

"The tests turned out negative," an Air France spokesman said.

Ebola can be transmitted to humans from wild animals, and between humans through direct contact with another's blood, faeces or sweat.

Sexual contact, or the unprotected handling of contaminated corpses, can also lead to infection.    

In Guinea, health authorities have reported 134 suspected Ebola cases since the beginning of the year of which 86 have been fatal.

Liberia has also reported cases of the disease, and Mali on Thursday detected three suspected victims of Ebola.

France last week stepped up vigilance for the virus. The country, a former colonial power in much of west Africa, is a major portal for air traffic from the region.

In response to concerns fanned by an epidemic of the deadly Ebola virus in Africa, French authorities have put into place procedures for airlines to isolate potentially sick people and have warned hospitals on how to deal with potential cases of the illness.

So far no people sick with Ebola have turned up in France, but officials are concerned tight links with west Africa could lead to a case being ‘imported’,French daily Le Parisien reported.

Their worries have been spurred by the death toll in Guinea which has risen to 83 in the few weeks since the outbreak kicked off.

Health authorities from the Direction Générale de la Santé have sent out a directive ordering Air France crews to immediately isolate passengers from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone who show symptoms of the disease.

The DGS order also instructs Air France personnel to immediately inform airport authorities if they think they have a case aboard a jetliner.

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HOLLANDE

Ebola: Hollande to be first leader to visit region

French President Francois Hollande will on Friday begin a visit to Guinea, making him the first Western leader to travel to a country hit hard by the deadly Ebola virus.

Ebola: Hollande to be first leader to visit region
Guinean Red Cross workers wearing protective suits carry the corpse of a victim of Ebola in Macenta. Photo: Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP

Guinea has already lost 1,200 people to the disease which has killed over 5,600 in total and infected almost 16,000, mainly in west Africa, according to World Health Organization figures.

The visit, the first by a French president since 1999, is a bid to deliver "a message of solidarity" to Guinea as it battles the worst outbreak of Ebola since the virus was discovered in 1976.

France has pledged 100 million euros ($125 million) as a contribution in the fight against Ebola, focusing its efforts on Guinea.

The money is due to help with financing several care centres in Guinea as well as funding 200 beds, some of which are reserved for health workers caring for the sick.

France has also pledged to set up two training centres for health workers, one in France and one in Guinea. In addition, French biotechnology companies will set up rapid diagnostic tests in Africa.

During the trip, Hollande was due to visit healthcare facilities, participate in a round-table discussion on Ebola as well as hold talks with his Guinean counterpart Alpha Conde.

After the one-day trip to Guinea, Hollande travels to Dakar to take part in a summit of French-speaking leaders that is likely to be dominated by the Ebola crisis as well as the recent unrest in Burkina Faso.

The OIF (International Organisation of French-Speakers) is expected to appoint a successor to former Senegalese leader Abdou Diouf.

However, there is no clear front-runner from the five main candidates, with a French government source telling AFP: "Anything could happen, including a last-minute candidate."

The OIF was founded in 1970 with the ambition to be a "French Commonwealth", a rival to the mainly English-speaking group of countries that are predominantly former British colonies.

But it is battling to find its relevance and retain its funding at a time when many governments find their budgets under pressure. France reduced its funding for the group by 20 percent this year.

French is currently spoken by close to 274 million people, with more than 50 percent of those in Africa — the 5th most spoken language in the world, behind Mandarin Chinese, English, Spanish and Arabic or Hindu depending on how it is calculated.

By 2050, the percentage of French speakers based in Africa is due to rise to 85 percent, with 700 million Francophones expected on the continent by then.

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