Ebola: West Africa Countries on high alert after outbreak in Guinea
Guinea declared an Ebola outbreak in one of its regions on Sunday, after the West African nation confirmed at least seven cases of the disease, including three deaths, the country’s National Security and Health Agency (ANSS) said.
Health officials in the southeastern N’Zerekore district said seven people who attended the funeral of a nurse tested positive for the disease and experienced symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting, and bleeding. Three of them died following the February 1 funeral. It is unclear if the nurse, who worked at the local health center, died from Ebola.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has pledged support for Guinea, helping to procure the Ebola vaccine which has helped control recent outbreaks in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Its teams are already on the ground also helping to ensure infection prevention and control in health facilities and other key locations as well as reaching out to communities.
An Ebola treatment center will also be opened in the Gouecke region of N’Zerekore, where the outbreak was declared.
The Red Cross said in a statement that a network of more than 700 trained volunteers has been “activated as part of the first wave of response and the government has called on people to respect hygiene and prevention measures and to report signs of the disease to health authorities.”
The world’s largest Ebola outbreak to date started in 2014 in Guinea and continued to 2016, spreading into neighboring Liberia and Sierra Leone. More than 28,000 people were infected and more than 11,000 of them died.
The current outbreak has again started in a border area of Guinea and the WHO says it is working with health authorities in Liberia and Sierra Leone to increase surveillance in border districts as well as improving the capacity to test for cases.
“It’s a huge concern to see the resurgence of Ebola in Guinea, a country which has already suffered so much from the disease. However, banking on the expertise and experience built during the previous outbreak, health teams in Guinea are on the move to quickly trace the path of the virus and curb further infections,” said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO’s Regional Director for Africa, in a statement.
“WHO is supporting the authorities to set up testing, contact-tracing and treatment structures and to bring the overall response to full speed.”
In a tweet, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: “#Guinea has many years of experience battling #Ebola, with skilled incident managers and vaccinators… The government is taking action. One of the first steps will be ensuring the community understands the risks and will join in response. Their role is crucial.”
Countries in West Africa are on high alert and Nigeria says it is monitoring the situation and will issue a public health advisory to address concerns in Africa’s most populous nation.
Ebola virus disease, which most commonly affects people and nonhuman primates such as monkeys, gorillas, and chimpanzees, is a severe disease that first spreads from wild animals to humans. Humans can be infected by other humans if they come in contact with body fluids from an infected person or contaminated objects from infected persons. Humans can also be exposed to the virus, for example, by butchering infected animals.
On average, about 50% of people who become ill with Ebola die, though this has varied from 25% to 90% in past outbreaks, according to WHO.
New Ebola cases have also been reported this month in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. On February 7, WHO announced a new case of Ebola in Butembo, located in the country’s North Kivu province. WHO’s a regional office for Africa said Saturday that a third Ebola case had been confirmed in the town of Katawa, near Butembo.
The health agency said it is working with partners to provide essential medical supplies to support local health authorities. Vaccinations also commenced in the region on Monday.
The DRC has faced several outbreaks of Ebola to date. In June 2020, DRC reported its eleventh Ebola outbreak. A total of 130 confirmed and probable cases were reported, as well as 55 deaths.