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Ebola kills four in Guinea

Health minister says officials ‘really concerned’ about deaths in south-east region Nzerekore

An MSF medical worker checking their protective clothing

The previous Ebola epidemic from 2013-16 began in Guinea and left 11,300 dead across the region. Photograph: Carl de Souza/AFP/Getty Images

Four people have died of Ebola in Guinea in the first resurgence of the disease in five years, the health minister said on Saturday.

Remy Lamah told AFP officials were “really concerned” about the deaths, the first since a 2013-16 epidemic – which began in Guinea – left 11,300 dead across the region. USA, LLC

One of the latest victims in Guinea was a nurse who fell ill in late January and was buried on 1 February, National Health Security Agency head 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.”

The four deaths from Ebola hemorrhagic fever occurred in the south-east region of Nzerekore, he said.

Keita also told local media that one patient had “escaped” but had been found and hospitalised in the capital Conakry. He confirmed the comments to AFP without giving further detail.

The World Health Organization has eyed each new outbreak since 2016 with great concern, treating the most recent one in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as an international health emergency.

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.

The country had declared the six-month epidemic over in November. It was the country’s 11th Ebola outbreak, claiming 55 lives out of 130 cases.

The widespread use of vaccinations, which were administered to more than 40,000 people, helped curb the disease.

The 2013-16 outbreak sped up the development of a 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.


2nd Person Dies Of Ebola In Congo, Marking Virus’s Return

The Democratic Republic of Congo saw the end of its second-worst Ebola outbreak in June. More than 2,000 people died in that outbreak. Burial workers, seen above in 2019, follow safe burial practices to mitigate the spread of the virus.
Jerome Delay/AP

A second person who had contracted the Ebola virus died this week in the Democratic Republic of Congo, marking another outbreak just three months after the nation outlasted the virus’s second-worst outbreak in history.

The latest victim was from the North Kivu province, the World Health Organization and the DRC’s health ministry said in a statement Thursday.

This death comes one week after a 42-year-old woman died from Ebola. The wife of an Ebola survivor, she entered an intensive care unit Feb. 4 and died the same day. She was buried on Feb. 5, but not under proper burial practices to prevent the spread of Ebola; during prior outbreaks, the handling of bodies was kept to a minimum and done by trained teams.

The lab confirmed she tested positive for Ebola the day after she was buried.

During her illness, the woman visited three health centers after first seeking treatment following symptoms of a nosebleed on Jan. 25.

As of Feb. 8, health investigators were able to track a total of 117 contacts with the woman. It’s unclear whether the victim announced Thursday was in direct contact with the unnamed woman.

This new cluster marks the 12th outbreak of Ebola in Congo. Thousands of people have died from the virus in Congo in recent years. An outbreak that began in 2018 and the WHO declared over in June 2020 killed more than 2,000 people.

A threat of a widespread outbreak of the disease comes as the nation, and the rest of the world, must also contend with the spread of COVID-19, which may further strain the country’s health care infrastructure.

Ebola is “endemic”

Ebola is a severe, often fatal illness, according to the WHO. It causes fever, fatigue and muscle pain at the start. Victims then suffer from vomiting, diarrhea, rash, and in some cases internal and external bleeding.

Efforts to quickly tame the Ebola outbreak that started in 2014 were hindered in part by the nation’s ongoing rebel conflicts, extreme poverty and poor infrastructure. Health care workers and patients were killed in attacks on health clinics, further delaying a stop to the disease’s spread.

The resurgence of the illness now is not wholly unexpected, the WHO said on Feb. 7. Ebola is “endemic” in Congo, and the virus remains in animal reservoirs in the region.

Heath care workers are trying to head off further spread. Health centers visited by the first woman were disinfected; the WHO is providing support to national authorities in the Butembo territory and shipping vaccine doses to the area; and is is helping in the contact tracing investigation.

In October, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted formal approval to an antibody cocktail from the pharmaceutical company Regeneron that’s been shown to reduce mortality rates. The treatment is known as REGN-EB3 and is marketed under the brand name Inmazeb.


WHO races to contain Ebola in the DRC as it confirms a third case

  • The WHO on Friday confirmed a third case of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
  • The number of people who might have been exposed to the virus has risen from over 70 on Monday to 182 as of Friday, a WHO official said.
  • The WHO is “still unclear around the original community source” of the first Ebola case, they said, but hope to understand whether the new cases are associated with the last Butembo outbreak.
World Health Organization workers decontaminate the house of a pastor who has just tested positive for Ebola in Beni, June 13, 2019.
World Health Organization workers decontaminate the house of a pastor who has just tested positive for Ebola in Beni, June 13, 2019.
Sally Hayden | SOPA Images | LightRocket | Getty Images

The World Health Organization on Friday confirmed a third case of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of the Congo as health officials race to vaccinate residents and contain the potential outbreak.

Earlier this week, the global health agency confirmed that a woman died of the disease in Butembo, a city in North Kivu Province and an epicenter of a previous Ebola outbreak that was declared over in June. The WHO has since confirmed two more cases, including another person who has died, Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO’s health emergencies program, said Friday.

The number of people who might have been exposed to the virus has risen from over 70 on Monday to 182 as of Friday, Ryan said. He added that all but three of those people have been contacted and more than half of them were previously vaccinated against Ebola during prior outbreaks.

“We’re seeing some benefits of the previous vaccination, but obviously we have to look at the length of time that vaccine protects,” he said.

He added that new shipments of vaccine arrived in Butembo this week. Ultracold-chain storage equipment is being set up in Butembo and personnel are being trained, Ryan said.

The DRC also has other therapeutics, including Ebola monoclonal anitbody treatments, in the capital, Kinshasa, and another city, Mbandaka, Ryan said, adding that they will be airlifted into North Kivu over the weekend. The DRC has enough vaccine for 16,000 people in the country, Ryan said, but it’s not clear how much has arrived in Butembo.

The WHO is “still unclear around the original community source” of the first Ebola case, Ryan said, adding that the DRC’s National Institute of Biomedical Research is sequencing samples of the virus at its main lab in Kinshasa to determine whether the new cases are associated with the last Butembo outbreak. Ryan said results are expected over the weekend.

The Ebola outbreak that was declared over in June lasted for nearly two years. It was the second-largest in the world and by the time it ended there were 3,481 total cases and 2,299 deaths, according to the WHO.

The WHO noted that outbreak response efforts in North Kivu Province have been especially difficult because of ongoing violent conflicts in the area, which is occupied by over 100 different armed groups, according to Human Rights Watch.

Ryan said the WHO is working with nongovernmental organizations, the DRC government, and other United Nations agencies, such as UNICEF, to respond to the new Ebola cases.

Unlike the highly infectious coronavirus, which can be spread by people who don’t have symptoms, Ebola is thought to mainly spread through people who are already visibly sick. The virus spreads through direct contact with the blood or body fluids of people who are sick or who died of the disease, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Ebola has an average case fatality rate of 50%, though it can vary by outbreak, according to the WHO.

“Obviously, two cases and now a third may not seem like many, many cases in the light of what we see globally with Covid, but we’ve been on the alert waiting for the return of Ebola in eastern Congo, and we’ll do everything in our power to support the government in the response,” Ryan said.

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