Three people have died of Ebola and another five tested positive for the virus in southeastern Guinea, the first possible resurgence of the disease there since the world’s worst outbreak in 2013.
One of the victims in Guinea was a nurse who fell ill in late January and was buried on February 1st, National Health Security Agency chief Sakoba Keita told local media.
“Among those who took part in the burial, eight people showed symptoms: diarrhoea, vomiting and bleeding,” he said. “Three of them died and four others are in hospital.” Keita said one patient “escaped” but had been found and hospitalised in the capital Conakry. He said the country was in the midst of an Ebola “epidemic situation.”
Health Minister Remy Lamah said officials were “really concerned” about the deaths, the first since a 2013-2016 epidemic – which began in Guinea – left 11,300 dead across West Africa.
A second round of tests is being carried out to confirm the latest Ebola diagnosis and health workers are working to trace and isolate the contacts of the cases, state health agency ANSS said. It said Guinea would contact the World Health Organization (WHO) and other international health agencies to acquire Ebola vaccines. The vaccines have greatly improved survival rates in recent years.
“WHO is ramping up readiness & response efforts to this potential resurgence of #Ebola in West Africa, a region which suffered so much from Ebola in 2014,” the agency’s regional director for Africa Matshidiso Moeti said on Twitter.
WHO has eyed each new outbreak since 2016 with great concern, treating a recent one in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) as an international health emergency. On Sunday, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus tweeted the UN health agency had been informed of suspected cases of the deadly disease in Guinea. “Confirmatory testing under way,” the tweet said, adding the WHO’s regional and country offices were “supporting readiness and response efforts.”
Liberian President George Weah on Sunday put his country’s health authorities on heightened alert. Weah “has mandated the Liberian health authorities and related stakeholders in the sector to heighten the country’s surveillance and preventative activities in the wake of reports of the emergence of the deadly Ebola virus disease in neighbouring Guinea”, his office said in a statement.
Neighouring DRC has faced several outbreaks of the illness, with the WHO on Thursday confirming a resurgence three months after authorities declared the end of the country’s latest outbreak. DRC, which declared the six-month epidemic over in November, confirmed a fourth case in North Kivu province on Sunday.
The widespread use of Ebola vaccinations, which were administered to more than 40,000 people, helped curb the disease.
The 2013-2016 spread sped up the development of the vaccine against Ebola, with a global emergency stockpile of 500,000 doses planned to respond quickly to future outbreaks, the vaccine alliance Gavi said in January.