THE World Health Organisation today put six countries on alert to be ready for Ebola cases after fresh outbreaks in Guinea and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
It comes after the virus killed at least five people in Guinea and health officials raced to stop it spreading further.
Guinea officially declared on Sunday it is dealing with an Ebola epidemic, a week after the DRC reported a resurgence of the virus there.
"We have already alerted the six countries around, including of course Sierra Leone and Liberia, and they are moving very fast to prepare and be ready and to look for any potential infection," the WHO's Margaret Harris told a Geneva briefing.
She did not specify the other four countries but they are understood to be immediate neighbours such as Ivory Coast.
Harris added that health authorities had identified close to 300 contacts in the Congo outbreak and around 109 in Guinea.
Gene sequencing of Ebola virus samples is under way to learn more about origins of new outbreaks and identify the strains.
"We don't know if this is down to Ebola persisting in the human population or if it's simply moving again from the animal population, but the genetic sequencing that's ongoing will help with that information," she added.
Ebola claimed more than 11,300 lives in West Africa when it swept through Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia in the worst-ever outbreak of 2013-2016.
Three new victims in Guinea fell ill with diarrhoea, vomiting and bleeding and then died after attending the burial of a nurse on February 1.
It is not known if the woman had also died of Ebola.
She worked at a health centre in Goueké near the south-eastern city of Nzérékoré – close to the borders with Liberia and Ivory Coast.
Today, authorities in Guinea said the death toll was now five and there are ten suspected cases in isolation.
WHAT IS EBOLA?
The Ebola virus disease – previously called Ebola haemorrhagic fever – is a viral infection that occurs in humans and primates.
The virus is part of the Filoviridae family, which also includes Marburg virus.
It was first detected in regions close to the River Ebola, which gave the disease its name.
To date, scientists have identified five strains of Ebola – four of which are known to cause disease in humans.
The natural reservoir – or host of the virus – is thought to be the fruit bat.
Non-human primates are a secondary host, and like humans develop fatal symptoms, so are unlikely to be the reservoir.
In spite of the epidemic that swept West Africa from 2013, scientists class Ebola as a virus that has a relatively low infection rate.
During that, the most recent and widespread outbreak, one Ebola patient would typically pass the disease on to another two people.
That is compared with a disease like measles where one case can often lead to 18 new infections.
The ministry of health said it has identified 115 contacts of the known cases in Nzerekore and ten in the capital Conakry since the outbreak was confirmed on Sunday.
Vaccines will be rushed to the affected area as soon as possible, Guinea's health minister Remy Lamah said yesterday.
He said the nation is much better prepared then when the virus ripped through the population nearly eight years ago.
"In 2013, it took us months to understand that we were dealing with an Ebola epidemic, while this time, in less than four days, we were able to do analysis and have the results," he said.
"Our medical teams are trained and seasoned. We have the means to quickly overcome this disease."
Meanwhile, Congo reported three new Ebola cases this month in the eastern North Kivu province.
The second-deadliest known outbreak was declared over last year in Congo, but it recorded a resurgence of the disease on February 7.
Neighbours Ivory Coast, Mali and Sierra Leone said on Monday they have launched plans to stop any potential spread and reinforced border controls.
They fear outbreaks could cripple their under-funded health systems which are already struggling to cope with the coronavirus pandemic.
Experts warned people to avoid contact with bodies of friends and relatives, which is one of the major ways the virus spreads.
In African communities it is the custom for relatives and neighbours to help wash the body before a funeral.
But bodies of those who die from Ebola are particularly infectious and can incubate the virus for up to three weeks.
Source: Read Full Article