Two new, unrelated Ebola outbreaks detected in Africa

February 17, 2021
Two new, unrelated Ebola outbreaks detected in Africa

Two new but separate Ebola outbreaks have flared up recently in Guinea and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Africa – prompting rapid response from the World Health Organization (WHO). The primary case in DRC was announced on February 7, claimed to be the wife of an Ebola survivor from a prior outbreak; Guinean authorities meanwhile have confirmed three positive Ebola cases so far.

The WHO is hypothesising it is possible for patients to harbour traces of the virus for months after recovering, thus endangering anyone they come into contact with. Scores of close contacts have already been identified and isolated, while the WHO has commenced vaccinating health workers in the area.

“The expertise and capacity of local health teams has been critical in detecting this new Ebola case and paving the way for a timely response,” said WHO Regional Director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti. “WHO is providing support to local and national health authorities to quickly trace, identify and treat the contacts to curtail the further spread of the virus.”

These new cases of Ebola are most likely related to the same strain of the virus – called Zaire Ebolavirus – responsible for recent outbreaks. This strain is known to be responsive to a recently developed vaccine.

According to WHO, both new outbreaks are occurring in regions familiar with the virus and are the first cases of Ebola reported in Guinea since 2016, which saw the world’s worst ever Ebola outbreak. That prior outbreak spread to neighboring Sierra Leone and Liberia, ultimately taking 11,000 lives.

“It’s a huge concern to see the resurgence of Ebola in Guinea, a country which has already suffered so much from the disease,” said Moeti. “However, banking on the expertise and experience built during the previous outbreak, health teams in Guinea are on the move to quickly trace the path of the virus and curb further infections.”

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