Health officials are racing to contain a deadly Ebola epidemic in Guinea, with one neighbouring state closing its borders and two others reporting cases amid warnings of a "serious threat" to the region.

Senegal on Saturday said its border crossings to Guinea would be closed "until further notice", while neighbours Liberia and Sierra Leone have reported suspected cases of the disease.

Guinea said on Saturday the number of suspected cases of Ebola stood at 111, with 70 deaths. Most cases were in the southern forested areas but eight cases had been confirmed in the capital, Conakry, with one death. 

The World Health Organisation said neighbouring Liberia had reported six of eight suspected cases of Ebola feverhad resulted in death, while Sierra Leone had reported six suspected cases, five of them fatal.

All of these reported cases had recently travelled to Guinea, the WHO said.

Aid pledge

The EU pledged $690,000 to fight the outbreak after a plea from the Economic Community of West African States, which described the outbreak as a "serious threat to the region".

No treatment or vaccine is available for Ebola, a highly infectious and virulent disease which can cause uncontrollable bleeding. The Zaire strain detected in Guinea, first recorded 38 years ago in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo, has a 90 percent death rate.

It can be transmitted to humans from wild animals, and between humans through direct contact with blood, bodily fluids or the unprotected handling of contaminated corpses.

The Doctors Without Borders group said the spread of the disease was being exacerbated by people travelling to funerals in which mourners touch the bodies of the dead.

Source: AFP