Guinea has declared an Ebola outbreak in the southeast of the country this Sunday, with at least seven infections and three deaths, in what is the first outbreak of the virus in this area since the great epidemic unleashed between 2014 and 2016 in West Africa.
The resurgence of the virus has been detected in the Gouécké area, in southeastern Guinean territory and close to the town of N’Zérékoré, one of the most populated cities in the country.RELATED
“The first investigation carried out has counted seven cases, all over 25 years old (four men and three women), among which (there are) three deaths (…) The first three samples sent to the Guéckédou and Conakri laboratories they have been revealed positive for Ebola, “the government’s National Health Security Agency (ANSS) detailed this Sunday in a statement.
Consequently, the Guinean Ministry of Health officially declared the existence of an Ebola epidemic in the southeast of the country, although the detection of probable infections had already been advanced this Saturday by the Guinean Minister of Health, Rémy Lamah, based on some first exams that were waiting to be reconfirmed in laboratories in Conakry.
So far, the affected people have shown the characteristic symptoms of the disease – diarrhea, vomiting and bleeding – after attending, on February 1, the funeral of a nurse who could also have died from Ebola in late January.
With these preliminary data, the World Health Organization (WHO) on Sunday expressed its concern about the possible resurgence of Ebola in this so affected area of the African continent.
“Very concerned by reports of four suspected Ebola deaths in Guinea (including nurse). WHO is accelerating preparedness and response efforts for the potential resurgence of Ebola in West Africa, a region that suffered greatly from Ebola in 2014, “World Health Organization Director for Africa Matshidiso Moeti said on Twitter.
With the official declaration of the new epidemic, the Guinean authorities also announced control measures to try to prevent the virus from causing a health catastrophe like the one in the middle of the last decade. These include protocols for tracking and isolating possible infections and an “acceleration” of the country’s efforts, together with the WHO, on vaccination.
The humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders (MSF) will deploy a team to support the response of the Ministry of Health. “We know from the past that speed of response is important, in trying to contain transmission and provide treatment to people who have contracted the disease,” said Frederik van der Schrieck, MSF’s head of mission in Guinea. “Contact tracing and other community activities will be absolutely vital along with treatment.”
The Ebola virus is spread through direct contact with the blood and contaminated body fluids of people or animals. It causes hemorrhagic fevers and can reach a mortality rate of 90% if it is not treated in time.
In Guinea-Conakry, no Ebola disease infections had been detected since the end of the great epidemic that struck West Africa between 2014 and 2016. Its first cases had emerged in this country at the end of 2013 and subsequently spread to Sierra Leone and Liberia.
The lack of control measures and the weak health systems in these countries, as well as the particular characteristics of the virus and its impact on social practices (such as the burials of those infected), fueled the rapid spread of the virus that, by July of 2014, was already in the capitals of these three countries. Once in cities, compared to more rural areas, the virus found “unprecedented transmission opportunities,” according to the WHO.
Derived from the outbreaks in this area, infections were also recorded in other countries in the region, such as Nigeria (19), Mali (7) or Senegal (1). But even beyond the borders of Africa, there were cases in countries like the United States (4), Italy (1) or Spain (1), according to WHO data.
That ended up being the worst Ebola epidemic in history, with 11,300 deaths and more than 28,500 people infected, although those figures, according to the WHO, could be conservative.
In the face of this new outbreak, Guinea-Conakry has the advantage of the experience of that great epidemic and of having experimental vaccines (such as rVSV-ZEBOV, approved in 2019 in the United States) that have already given good results in recent years. years in places like the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
On the negative side, the outbreak will be a health effort added to that required by the COVID-19 pandemic, a disease of which, to date, Guinea-Conakry has registered 14,895 cases, with 84 deaths.
Guinea-Conakry is not the only Ebola resurgence of concern in Africa. At the same time, in recent days there have been four cases of Ebola in the northeast of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in the center of the continent, a country that suffers the scourge of this virus relatively frequently.
The new case of Ebola was registered in the province of North Kivu. “WHO is working with partners to rapidly provide essential medical supplies in support of the DRC Ministry of Health response in North Kivu,” WHO’s Africa office said via Twitter.
The African country continues to work on contact tracing and, to try to contain the spread of the disease, it will apply vaccination and control strategies that have already taken effect in past outbreaks.
These new cases of Ebola in North Kivu have occurred only about three months after the country announced, on November 18, the end of the eleventh Ebola outbreak in its history, in the western province of Ecuador and that ended killed 55 people and infected 130 others, according to official figures.
Only a few months earlier, the Congolese authorities had already declared the end of what was the tenth epidemic, which devastated three provinces in the northeast of the country (North Kivu, South Kivu and Ituri) from August 2018 to June 2020, with a result of 2,280 deaths.
This tenth epidemic was the worst in the history of the DRC and the second most serious in the world, surpassed only by the one that devastated West Africa from 2014 to 2016. In this northeastern Congolese area, the same where these new infections have been registered, the The response was complicated by social mistrust and violence from the dozens of armed groups operating in the area.