CONAKRY, March 19 (Reuters) - An outbreak of hemorrhagic fever has killed at least 23 people in Guinea's southeastern forest region since February when the first case was reported, health authorities in the West African nation said on Wednesday.
At least 35 cases have been recorded by local health officials, said Sakoba Keita, the doctor in charge of the prevention of epidemics in Guinea's Health Ministry.
"Symptoms appear as diarrhoea and vomiting, with a very high fever. Some cases showed relatively heavy bleeding," Keita said.
"We thought it was Lassa fever or another form of cholera but this disease seems to strike like lightning. We are looking at all possibilities, including Ebola, because bushmeat is consumed in that region and Guinea is in the Ebola belt," he said. No cases of the highly contagious Ebola fever have ever been recorded in the country.
Keita said most of the victims had been in contact with the deceased or had handled the bodies. He said those infected had been isolated and samples had been sent to Senegal and France for further tests.
More than half of the mineral-rich nation's 11.4 million people live on less than $1 a day and many lack access to basic medical facilities and qualified medical staff. (Reporting by Saliou Samb; Writing by Bate Felix; Editing by Janet Lawrence)