Ebola hits Bus Company after Ebola patient takes 500km bus journey
‘We have to find every single person at every single bus stop along the entire network’ says one senior health official
Ebola has spread to Abidjan, one of the great cities of Africa, after an 18-year-old infected woman traveled 500km on a bus from neighboring Guinea to Ivory Coast to see her fiance.
Medics in both countries are now working around the clock to identify everyone the woman came into contact with.
“We have to find every single person at every single stop along the entire network. We have to see how many passengers got in and how many got out,” says Dr Jean Marie Vianny Yameogo, director of the World Health Organisation in Ivory Coast.
“If we don’t find them, it will be a disaster.”
On Saturday, the Ivorian government announced that it had recorded the West African nation’s first case of the deadly hemorrhagic fever in a quarter of a century.
The case was found in the worst possible place — the country’s bustling commercial capital of more than four million people and the economic linchpin of Francophone Africa, Abidjan.
Dr Merawi Aragaw Tegegne of the Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention in Addis Ababa said that if there were more infections, they would begin to emerge over the course of the next 21 days.
“To be frank, because it is a big city like this, it’s really worrisome for us all. It can spread widely. Usually, these kinds of outbreaks are in the remote corners of rural areas,” said Dr Tegegne.
On Monday afternoon, the WHO’s Dr Yameogo told The Telegraph that the authorities had already managed to find “about 32” contact cases in Abidjan and that the patient was beginning to recover from her initial symptoms.
He said the case had been traced back to Guinea’s northern Labé Region, which borders Senegal and Mali.
Sequencing has shown that the infection was caused by a new outbreak of Ebola in Guinea, which is linked to the devastating 2014 to 2016 epidemic that killed more than 11,300 people across Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
A more recent surge was declared in June 2021 over with only 12 deaths, largely thanks to the heroic efforts made by local healthcare workers to trace and vaccinate contact cases. Dr Yameogo said the new outbreak was not thought to be linked to the latest surge. Guinea’s outbreak earlier this year was on the other side of the country to the Labé Region, where the new Ebola victim came from.
The Ebola virus was discovered in 1976 in the Congo rainforest. It is believed to have originated animals like bats and can be transmitted through bushmeat. The disease has up to 90 per cent death rate for someone who is unvaccinated.
Dr Yameogo said that one of the reasons behind the increased cases of Ebola in west Africa was massive deforestation, which means that wildlife carrying the virus and humans came into contact more often.
The news hits a region already on high alert. Last week, west Africa recorded its first ever case of the deadly Marburg virus in Guinea.
Alongside pathogens including Ebola, Zika Lassa fever and ‘Disease X’ – an as yet unidentified disease with pandemic potential – Marburg, another form of hemorrhagic fever, is listed by the WHO as a top 10 priority diseases, meaning it is considered to “pose the greatest public health risk”.
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