Two unrelated Ebola outbreaks have broken out in two countries that have already been exposed to some of the worst of the deadly viral disease.
Guinea health officials on Sunday declared an Ebola outbreak in Gouéké in N’Zerekore prefecture, located in the southeastern part of the country. Officials have so far linked seven people to the outbreak, including three deaths. Six people became ill from an Ebola-like illness after attending a funeral. Three of these cases have been confirmed and two of the six are dead.
The outbreak marks the first time Ebola has been found in Guinea since 2016, when the largest Ebola outbreak ever recorded ended. The eruption, which stretched over 2014 to 2016, gathered more than 28,600 cases and over 11,000 deaths. Guinea was one of the three hardest hit countries in the outbreak.
“It is a great concern to see the resurgence of Ebola in Guinea, a country that has already suffered so much from the disease,” said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, Regional Director of the World Health Organization for Africa. “However, Guinea’s healthcare team is moving towards the expertise and experience gained during the previous outbreak to be able to quickly track the virus’ path and curb further infections.”
Meanwhile, Democratic Republic of Congo officials have confirmed four cases in northern Kivu province, with the second-largest Ebola outbreak ending in June 2020. This outbreak had a total of nearly 3,500 cases and nearly 2,300 deaths. It is unclear whether the new cases are linked to this outbreak via latent, persistent infection, or whether it represents a new “spillover” incident in which the virus moves to humans from an unidentified animal host.
In both current situations, health officials jump into action, working to track contacts, mobilize health resources and vaccinate suspected contacts.
“The outbreaks in Guinea and the Democratic Republic of Congo are completely independent, but we face similar challenges in both,” WHO Director – General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a news conference on 15 February. “Both outbreaks occur in areas that have recently experienced Ebola and benefit from that experience … But both outbreaks are also in hard-to-reach, unsafe areas with some distrust of outsiders. ”
Tedros noted that in the DRC, 43 people have been vaccinated by 149 case contacts, including 20 people who were vaccinated during the previous outbreak.