A community in Dubreka Prefecture, Guinea, gathers for Ebola-awareness meeting. Courtesy of WHO/P. Haughton
More than 800 contacts of recently confirmed Ebola cases in Guinea’s southern prefecture of Nzérékoré have been identified and placed under medical monitoring in a bid to contain a new flare-up of Ebola virus disease.
On March 16, Guinean health authorities alerted the World Health Organization (WHO) and partners to three probable Ebola deaths and two suspect Ebola cases in the village of Koropara Centre, all from the same family. The following day, the two suspect cases, a mother and her 8-year-old daughter, tested positive for Ebola virus disease. The child has since died in a treatment facility and the mother is reported seriously ill. A high-risk contact, who traveled to the neighboring prefecture of Macenta to consult a healer, has also died and has since tested positive for Ebola, bringing the total number of probable and confirmed Ebola deaths in the flare-up to five.
Local health authorities have reactivated the emergency coordination mechanism that was in place during the height of the Ebola epidemic in Nzérékoré, and a rapidly growing inter-agency response is in full motion. WHO has deployed dozens of epidemiologists, surveillance experts, contact tracers, vaccinators, social mobilizers, health promoters, and infection prevention and control experts to support the effort.
As of today, 816 contacts have been identified from 107 households in the immediate vicinity of the home of the confirmed and probable cases in Koropara. More than 100 of the contacts are considered high risk. Their movements to and from the area will be restricted while they are under medical observation. Vaccination teams will also begin administering the Ebola vaccine to contacts and contacts of contacts today to prevent possible spread of the disease. A door-to-door case search is planned for surrounding villages.
More than 50 contacts of the man who traveled to and died in the Macenta prefecture have been identified, and additional contact tracing and case investigation is underway.
Infection prevention and disease control measures, including a public awareness campaign and other health promotion and community engagement activities, are being stepped up in all affected areas.
Samples from the confirmed cases and some high-risk contacts have been sent to a lab in Conakry for testing. Initial tests indicate that the cases stem from known transmission chains and are not an introduction of the virus from the animal population.
The sub-prefecture of Koropara, which has a population of about 8200 residents, was originally hit by Ebola from October to December 2014. There were 24 Ebola cases, 15 deaths and nine survivors. This re-emergence of Ebola in Guinea is the first since the original outbreak in the country was declared over on 29 December 2015.
These new Ebola infections in Guinea were confirmed on the same day, March 17, that WHO declared the end of the latest Ebola flare-up in neighboring Sierra Leone. In a statement, WHO said recurrences of the disease must be anticipated, largely due to virus persistence in some survivors, and that the three Ebola-affected countries must maintain strong capacity to prevent, detect, and respond to further outbreaks.
More than 28 500 people have been infected and 11 300 have died in the world’s worst recorded Ebola epidemic in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.