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Sierra Leone Ebola patient's family remove her from local health center

ACCRA (Reuters) - Relatives of an Ebola patient in Sierra Leone took her home from a community health center despite protests from medical staff, risking spreading the deadly and highly infectious disease, a senior health official said on Tuesday.

The family said they did not trust the medical system and feared she would die if a transfer to the general hospital in the town of Kenema went ahead, Amara Jambai, the health ministry's director of disease prevention and control, said.

Lawmakers and community leaders would try to talk to family members and persuade them to return her to hospital, he said.

There has been no news of the woman, whose identity has been kept secret, since she was taken from Koindu to her village nearby, Jambai said by telephone from the capital Freetown.

Koindu shares a border with what the World Health Organization (WHO) says is the Ebola virus disease epicenter of Guéckédou in Guinea.

Asked about the risk posed by her removal from hospital, Jambai said: "She can infect others, her family members and also those in the community. There is no news of her condition because she has been taken away so we need to search and find her and make sure that it (Ebola) doesn't spread."

Five people have died in Sierra Leone's first confirmed outbreak of Ebola virus, WHO said on Monday, signaling a new spreading of the disease which regional officials had said was under control.

Ebola, a hemorrhagic fever with a fatality rate of up to 90 percent, is believed to have killed some 185 people in neighboring Guinea and Liberia since March in the first deadly appearance of the disease in West Africa.

The West African outbreak spread from a sparsely inhabited corner of Guinea to the capital, Conakry, and into Liberia, causing panic across a region struggling with weak healthcare systems and porous borders.

A total of 258 clinical cases have been recorded in Guinea since the outbreak was first identified as Ebola, including 174 deaths - 95 confirmed, 57 probable and 57 suspected - WHO says.

(Reporting by Matthew Mpoke Bigg; Additional reporting by Stephanie Ulmer-Nebehay in Geneva; Editing by Louise Ireland)

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