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West Africa Guards Against Ebola as Guinea Cases Flare Up

NHS doctors and nurses practise their medical skills at the Army's Ebola training facility, near York. (Photo: Wikimedia)

(Bloomberg) --Guinea’s West African neighbors are taking measures to prevent the Ebola hemorrhagic fever from entering their countries, as cases rise in the world’s top bauxite exporter.

By Katarina Hoije and Ougna Camara
Feb 16, 2021, 6:17 PM – Updated on Feb 16, 2021, 8:50 PM
Word Count: 513
Five people have died from the highly contagious disease, its National Health Security Agency said in an emailed statement Tuesday. Three people have tested positive and ten other suspected cases are awaiting laboratory results, it said.

Authorities are also monitoring 125 people who were in contact with cases. Most of them are in the southeastern Nzerekore region, where an outbreak has been declared, and the remaining ten are in the capital, Conakry, it said.

No cases or contacts have been reported beyond Guinea so far, Georges Ki-Zerbo, who heads the World Health Organization’s country office, said by phone from the capital Tuesday. The WHO, which expects more cases to be confirmed locally in the coming days, has warned neighbors to “act immediately” to prevent a spread, Zi-Kerbo said.

Guinea was at the epicenter of the 2014-2016 Ebola epidemic, which spread mainly to Liberia and Sierra Leone, infecting more than 45,000 people in West Africa, and killing more than 11,000. The latest outbreak couldn’t have come at a worst time as countries grapple with the health and economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

Read more: How Ebola Helped Africa Prepare for Coronavirus

The worst-affected countries are still reeling from the last Ebola outbreak, Gyude Moore, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development in Washington D.C. and former Liberian cabinet minister, said in an emailed response to questions. The resurgence is “happening at a time when governments have less resources, slowing economies and a global system that is preoccupied with a pandemic,” he said.

Guinea was the first sub-Saharan African country to administer Covid vaccines but has only vaccinated 55 people. It’s now working to secure Ebola vaccines, approved for use in 2019, within the next three days, authorities said, fueling hope that the new outbreak will be contained.

Ivory Coast, which shares a western border with the affected Guinean region, has taken “heightened” protective measures, it said in a statement Monday. It has also reactivated its Ebola surveillance centers and tightened checks at land, sea and air borders.

“The government insists on personal and collective responsibility in the fight against the two diseases,” Ivorian Health Minister Aka Ouele said in the statement.

Former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who led the country during the last epidemic, echoed the sentiment in a tweet Monday, after the incumbent, George Weah, ordered health authorities to increase surveillance.

In light of the reported #Ebola outbreak in Guinea, I urge all Liberians to be vigilant and immediately report those with the symptoms we know so well. We have made it through Ebola before—let us band together once again to protect against the devastation we endured.

— Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (@MaEllenSirleaf) February 15, 2021
Authorities in Sierra Leone and Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country that quashed the 2014 outbreak before it could take root, are also tightening checks, according to government statements.

(Updates with Liberian expert’s comment in paragraph below tout.)
–With assistance from Leanne de Bassompierre and Festus Poquie.

© 2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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