Guinean health authorities have declared an outbreak of Ebola in a rural community in the south of the country, with at least seven people infected, three of whom died, the World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed on February 14.
This is the first time the disease has been reported in the country since the deadly 2014-2016 outbreak in West Africa which claimed over 11,000 lives.
“It’s a huge concern to see the resurgence of Ebola in Guinea, a country which has already suffered so much from the disease”, Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, said.
“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”, she added.
According to WHO, the cases, which were confirmed by the national laboratory, occurred in Gouéké in N’Zerekore prefecture, in southern Guinea. Initial investigations found that a nurse from a local health facility died on January 28. Following her burial, six people who attended the funeral reported Ebola-like symptoms and two of them later died. The other four are in hospital.
Samples of the confirmed cases have been sent to the InstitutPasteur center in Senegal for full genome sequencing to identify the strain of the Ebola virus.
Guinea was one of the three most-affected countries in the 2014-2016 West Africa Ebola outbreak which was the largest since the virus was first discovered in 1976. The outbreak, which saw some 28,000 cases, including 11,000 deaths, started in Guinea and then moved across land borders to Sierra Leone and Liberia.
Staff from WHO are already on the ground, assisting surveillance, and infection prevention and control efforts. “WHO is supporting the authorities to set up testing, contact-tracing and treatment structures and to bring the overall response to full speed”, Dr. Moeti said.
WHO personnel are also reaching out to communities to ensure they take a key role in the response. In addition, the agency is also helping Guinea procure the Ebola vaccine which has proven instrumental in controlling outbreaks in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
As the epicentre of the current outbreak in a border area, WHO is also working with health authorities in Liberia and Sierra Leone to step up community surveillance of cases in their border districts as well as strengthening their capacity to test for cases and conduct surveillance in health facilities.
WHO is also reaching out to Cote d’Ivoire, Mali, Senegal and other countries at risk in the region, the agency said.
Ebola virus disease (EVD), formerly known as Ebola haemorrhagic fever, is a rare but severe, often fatal illness in humans. The average EVD case fatality rate is around 50 percent, with rates having varied from 25 percent to 90 percent in past outbreaks.
The Ebola virus spreads through contact with the body fluids – such as vomit, faeces or blood – of an infected person, or through surfaces and materials (such as bedding, clothing) contaminated with these fluids.
The incubation period, that is, the time interval from infection with the virus to onset of symptoms, is from two to 21 days. The symptoms of EVD can be sudden and include fever, fatigue, muscle, pain, headache, and sore throat.
This is followed by vomiting, diarrhoea, rash, symptoms of impaired kidney and liver function, and in some cases internal and external bleeding.
According to WHO, though there are no known treatments for Ebola, an Ebola vaccine rVSV-ZEBOV can offer protection against the deadly virus. In addition, simple interventions early on can significantly improve chances of survival, including rehydration with fluids and body salts (given orally or intravenously), and treatment of specific symptoms. Hand hygiene is also a very effective way to prevent the spread of the virus.