The Sunday Mail quoted the health minister and a senior medical official confirming that a trader from Angola had died at the main hospital in the northwestern town on Christmas day from a suspected ebola infection.

Specimen samples have been taken and sent to a laboratory in South Africa for tests.

"At the moment it is only a suspected case and we will only know the cause of the death when we get laboratory tests results from South Africa," Health Minister David Parirenyatwa said.

Gibson Mhlanga, a provincial doctor, told the daily: "The man from Angola was admitted on Wednesday ... (and) died on Christmas day."

Doctors immediately isolated him to prevent the spread of the disease after he displayed symptoms consistent with the highly contagious fever.

The deceased, a cross-border trader, reportedly arrived in Zimbabwe from Angola through Namibia and Botswana.

Ebola is spread through direct contact with body fluids of an infected person.

An ebola outbreak in recent months left 29 dead in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which is to the north of Angola. An epidemic in 2001 in the same region claimed more than 100 lives.

Ebola is thought to be contracted by humans when they eat the flesh of infected animals.