KIKWIT, Zaire — An outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus has entered a new phase in Zaire, spreading to the community at large, doctors in this town at the center of the epidemic said Wednesday.
"There are people dying in the city. . . . Now it is showing up among people in the community," said Dr. Mungala Kipasa, director of Kikwit General Hospital.
Many of Mungala's best staff have been wiped out by the lethal virus, which kills 90% of its victims and for which there is no known vaccine or cure.
The virus is passed through contact with blood or bodily fluids. Victims die within days, with blood pouring from their eyes, ears and noses.
Despite efforts to contain the virus, Zaire's president said Wednesday that it is impossible to prevent people from leaving Kikwit, a city of 600,000 where the epidemic broke out.
"Those who are in quarantine are not under arrest, and since they are not under arrest they can sometimes escape and do what they want," President Mobutu Sese Seko said.
Ebola has killed at least 87 people, experts say. The World Health Organization in Geneva said Wednesday that its experts in Zaire had registered 101 cases of infection.
In Canada, a native of Zaire requesting refugee status was detained at Toronto's Pearson International Airport on Wednesday, Canadian officials said. They said he poses no public health risk but was placed under supervision as a precaution. The man, whose name was not released, comes from an area near Kikwit.
In the United States, health authorities are monitoring major airports. Tom Skinner, a spokesman for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, said quarantine stations have been set up at airports in Los Angeles, New York, Miami, Chicago, Seattle, San Francisco and Honolulu.