BAMAKO, Mali — Malian authorities on Wednesday reported two new deaths from Ebola that are not believed to be linked to the nation's only other known case, an alarming setback as the country tries to limit the epidemic ravaging other West African countries.
Health officials began monitoring dozens of hospital employees and family members and also searched this capital city of about 2 million for those who helped prepare the body of a victim for burial before it was known how highly contagious the corpse was.
The announcement came just a day after Malian health authorities said there had been no other reported cases — let alone deaths — since a 2-year-old girl who had traveled to Mali from Guinea succumbed to the virus in late October.
A nurse working at a clinic in the capital died Tuesday, and tests later showed she had Ebola, Communications Minister Mahamadou Camara said Wednesday. A patient the nurse had treated died on Monday and was later confirmed to have had the disease as well.
The patient — an imam who lived in a small community near Guinea's border with Mali — came to the Clinique Pasteur on Oct. 25 late at night. The man, 70, was so ill he could not speak or give information about his symptoms, according to the head of the clinic.
"His family did not give us all the information that would have led us to suspect Ebola," Dramane Maiga told The Associated Press.
The man was being treated for renal insufficiency at the Bamako hospital, officials said. The condition can result from kidney disease but is also a symptom of late-stage Ebola, when vital organs begin to shut down.
The nurse was hospitalized on Saturday and hospital officials did not alert the health ministry until Monday morning. Health officials did not arrive at the clinic until 6 p.m. and by the time the test results came back on Tuesday, the 25-year-old nurse was already dead, said Maiga.
The new Ebola cases come just as public health officials started to think Mali had avoided the worst. The cases are stark reminders that the disease is hard to track and the entire West Africa region remains vulnerable as long as there are cases anywhere.
"For the moment we have 30 people under observation at Clinique Pasteur — including 16 patients — along with 45 family members," said Ousmane Doumbia, secretary-general for the Malian health ministry.
Nearly 5,000 people have died this year in the region from the virus, which first erupted in Guinea, on Mali's border.
Mali's first case initially caused alarm because officials said the toddler was bleeding from her nose as she traveled with relatives by public transport from Guinea to Mali. Ebola is transmitted through the bodily fluids of people who are showing symptoms, which include bleeding, vomiting and diarrhea.
About 50 other people who had possible contact with the girl remain under observation in Kayes, 375 miles (600 kilometers) from Bamako. They will be released from quarantine on Nov. 16 if they don't show symptoms.