A two-year-old girl who was Mali's first case of Ebola died on Friday, shortly after the World Health Organization warned that many people had potentially been exposed to the virus because she was taken across the country while ill.
The girl had traveled with her grandmother hundreds of miles by bus from Guinea via Mali's capital to the western town of Kayes, where she was diagnosed on Thursday. Health workers were scrambling to trace hundreds of potential contacts in a bid to prevent Ebola from taking hold in Mali.
The worst Ebola outbreak on record has killed 4,900 people, mainly in nearby Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. A global response to the epidemic is being rolled out but experts warn that tens of thousands more people are at risk.
In a statement on Friday night, Mali's government confirmed the death of the girl, who has not been identified.
Mali is the sixth West African nation to record a case of Ebola. Senegal and Nigeria have successfully contained outbreaks. Spain and the United States have had a few cases.
Diplomatic sources have expressed concern about the preparedness of Mali, one of the world's poorest countries, to contain an outbreak. Home to a large U.N. peacekeeping mission, the mostly Muslim country is still battling northern Islamist militants after a brief French-led war last year.
WHO said that an investigation into the girl's case revealed that she had already started showing symptoms, and was therefore contagious, before being taken to Kayes.
"WHO is treating the situation in Mali as an emergency," the U.N. health agency said in a statement.
"The child's symptomatic state during the bus journey is especially concerning, as it presented multiple opportunities for exposures, including high-risk exposures, involving many people," it added.