Preliminary blood tests indicate the lethal Ebola virus has struck 19 people in a remote village of the West African nation of Gabon, the World Health Organization says.
The agency sent a team of investigators to Mayibout, Gabon, to check out reports of an outbreak of viral hemorrhagic fever, with symptoms similar to those of Ebola.
The doctors found 10 people dead, five fewer than initially reported. Nine villagers with the same symptoms were put in isolation in the nearest hospital, 100 miles away in Makokou, and appeared to be recovering, WHO said in a news release issued Friday in Washington.
Preliminary tests on blood samples indicate Ebola is the culprit, the agency said. Doctors are conducting confirmatory tests, and another four people in Mayibout are being monitored for possible infection.
Ebola killed 244 people last year in Zaire, a central African nation east of Gabon.
The virus was identified in 1976, when it ravaged a village in Zaire, but has been seen only a few times since. Scientists do not know where the virus comes from, and there is no known cure.
The fatality rate normally is about 80 percent. Symptoms include diarrhea, fevers and vomiting, which make Ebola difficult to distinguish from other diseases common in Africa.
World Health Organization doctors are investigating in Gabon whether patients caught the infection from a chimpanzee.