— As President Weah mandates health authorities to tighten surveillance
The deadly Ebola virus, which killed 4,800 people in Liberia, has resurfaced in a Guinea town that is less than 75 kilometers away from the mining town of Yekepa in Nimba County, Liberia.
The town, Gouécké, near the south-eastern city of Nzérékoré, has seen three deaths and four hospitalization of the virus, according to Aljazeera. It comes after seven people fell ill with diarrhea, vomiting, and bleeding after attending a burial of a nurse in Goueké, a town that is near the Liberian border.
Gouécké is approximately 145 kilometers north of Ganta, Nimba County (approximately 3 hours’ drive) and less than 75 kilometers from Yekepa, Nimba County (approximately 1 hour 35 minutes’ drive). Ganta the most vibrant commercial city in Liberia, second only to Monrovia, sees a high amount of human and vehicular traffic between there and Nzérékoré a commercial center that is just 45 minutes drive south of Gouécké.
According to Guinea Ministry of Health, the new outbreak is concerning and as a result; they have declared the outbreak as an epidemic, while 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.
“Faced with this situation and in accordance with international health regulations, the Guinean government declares an Ebola epidemic,” the ministry said in a statement.
Meanwhile, up to late Sunday evening, February 14, residents of Nimba County appeared rather lukewarm about the new threat of Ebola looming just over the county’s border with Guinea. According to our Nimba correspondent, Ishmael F. Menkor, Liberia’s borders in Nimba remain partially closed since the outbreak of the Coronavirus in 2020. “Only cargo is allowed to enter or leave the country,” he said.
Given the high volume of cross border trade between Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, and their relatively weak healthcare systems, there is concern the outbreak could spread.
In response to the outbreak, President George Weah has mandated the Ministry of Health and its immediate responding health agency, the National Public Health Institute of Liberia (NPHIL), to heighten the country’s epidemiological surveillance and preventive activities amid reports of the emergence of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in neighboring Guinea.
According to a press statement from the Executive Mansion, the President has also mandated Liberia health authorities to engage towns and villages along the borders with Guinea to increase anti-Ebola measures to prevent the spread of the virus.
The President’s instruction, the statement says, intends to ensure Liberia takes proactive steps and actions to avoid the virus from spreading to the country as it did in 2014.
“While the President has instructed health authorities to increase surveillance level, though there has been no report of any case of the virus in Liberia, and President Weah has assured that the government is undertaking all measures to ensure that the public remains safe from the deadly virus,” the executive mansion statement added.
The statement added: “Being acquainted with Ebola preventive measures considering the 2014 experience, President Weah further encouraged every citizen and resident within the borders of Liberia to adapt themselves to the preventive measures as they did in those years, which aided international assistance to kick the virus out of the country.”
Ebola in Guinea
The outbreak in Guinea is the first of its kind since the epidemic in 2013-2016, which left 11,300 dead across West Africa. In 2013, the first outbreak of the virus occurred in Guinea and later spread to Liberia and Sierra Leone. During this period, several vaccines were trialed, and successfully used to fight outbreaks in the Democratic Republic of Congo as well.
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.
According to the BBC, the current outbreak started after a worker at a health center in Goueké, died on 28 January and her funeral was held four days later.
The Ebola virus initially causes sudden fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, and a sore throat. It then progresses to vomiting, diarrhea and both internal and external bleeding and patients tend to die from dehydration and multiple organ failure. People caught through contact with an infected person: broken skin, or the mouth and nose, with the blood, vomit, faeces or bodily fluids of someone with Ebola.
Meanwhile, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO Regional Director for Africa, according to Al jazeera has disclosed that the resurgence of Ebola in Guinea was a “huge concern” and “Health teams in Guinea are on the move to quickly trace the path of the virus and curb further infections,”
Dr. Moeti added, “WHO is supporting the authorities to set up testing, contact-tracing and treatment structures and to bring the overall response to full speed.”
Al Jazeera further that from Dr Yuma Taido – of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in Guinea said it was not clear how people had come into contact with the virus. “We are preparing to manage the outbreak. We cannot explain yet how this epidemic came about. The response team are heading to the epicentre of the outbreak from today,” Taido said.