Guinea Declares Its First Ebola Epidemic Since 2016
The whole of west Africa is on high alert for the highly-contagious virus.
Guinea is the latest country to report a resurgence of Ebola virus.
The West African country had been declared Ebola-free since 2016 by the World Health Organization (WHO), however health officials in the N'Zerekore district confirm that the nation has declared an epidemic after seven people tested positive for the virus.
Officials explained that the seven people had attended a funeral of a nurse on Jan 29, 2021; it is currently unclear if the nurse died from Ebola.
Those who have recently been infected with Ebola have been experiencing symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, and bleeding, and they are currently in self-isolation. Four people in the country have died from the virus so far, with the fourth death on Feb. 15, 2021.
Ebola is a rare but severe virus that can often be fatal in humans. According to the WHO, it has a fatality rate of around 50% and case fatality rates have ranged from 25% to 90% during previous outbreaks.
Guinea, with a population of almost 70,000, saw its worst outbreak to date from 2014 to 2016, during which 3,814 people were infected and 2,544 died. The virus started in the country and later spread to its neighboring countries, Sierra Leone and Liberia. During that period over 28,000 people were infected and more than 11,000 deaths were reported globally, but the three West African countries were the worst affected.
Speaking to ABC News, WHO representative Georges Ki-Zerbo said: “The resurgence of Ebola in Guinea is a big concern not only for the government, and also the countries in the region, but also for the WHO and all the development partners.”
"We all know the suffering and all the socio-economic impact that was brought by the previous epidemic, and this is a new challenge, especially in the midst of the response to COVID-19,” he added.
In a statement, WHO’s Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, confirmed that the organization is supporting the country in its effort to fight the outbreak.
“It's a huge concern to see the resurgence of Ebola in Guinea, a country which has already suffered so much from the disease,” she said. “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.”
"WHO is supporting the authorities to set up testing, contact-tracing, and treatment structures, and to bring the overall response to full speed,” she continued.
New Ebola cases have also been reported in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, with the first cases reported in Butembo on Feb. 7, 2021. A few days later the country recorded its third case from a town near Butembo.
Nigeria is among the West African countries that is already taking precautions against the Ebola outbreak, including putting in place enhanced surveillance at all the border points to the country as a method of preventing the cross-border spread of the virus.