Three people die of Ebola in Guinea, while vaccination campaign begins in DRC
By Saliou Samb and Fiston Mahamba
CONAKRY/KINSHASA - Guinea is tracking down people who potentially came in contact with Ebola patients and will rush out vaccines to the area as soon as it can get them, after three people died of the disease, Health Minister Remy Lamah said on Monday.
Lamah said that unlike during the deadliest known outbreak, which tore through West Africa between 2013 and 2016, Guinea now had the means to halt the resurgence of the disease.
"In 2013, it took us months to understand that we were dealing with an Ebola epidemic, while this time, in less than four days, we were able to do analysis and have the results. Our medical teams are trained and seasoned. We have the means to quickly overcome this disease," Lamah said.
The 2013-2016 outbreak killed 11 300 people, mostly in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. The second-deadliest known outbreak was declared last year in the Democratic Republic of Congo, but that country has also recorded new Ebola cases this month, alarming global health officials.
Lamah did not say how many potential contacts health officials were trying to trace. However authorities including in neighbouring Sierra Leone are concerned that the disease could quickly spread in the area where borders are porous.
A spokesman for Sierra Leone's health ministry said workers were on the ground at points of entry, performing surveillance in coordination with the Guinea authorities.
The resurgence started after the funeral of a nurse who was buried in southeast Guinea at the beginning of February.
Authorities said seven people who took part in the funeral fell ill and tested positive for Ebola. Three have died, while four others are in isolation.
"As a priority, we are trying to trace all potential contacts to isolate them. At the same time, we will carry out a vaccination campaign in the locality, as soon as the doses are available," Lamah told Reuters.
"What worries us the most is the dangerousness of the disease given what we experienced five years ago. We do not want to relive such a situation," he said.
Lamah said the government had received assurances from the World Health Organization that it will help it get vaccines, as doses stored from the previous outbreak had expired.
Meanwhile in the DRC, an Ebola vaccination campaign has begun in the city of Butembo, in eastern DRC, the WHO said in a tweet on Monday.
🇨🇩:#Ebola vaccination campaign officially launched in #Butembo #DRC — just one week after the resurgence of the virus. Health workers at Matanda health centre, where the first Ebola patient was treated, were the first to be vaccinated. pic.twitter.com/tNucuLpkrC— WHO African Region (@WHOAFRO) February 15, 2021
Health workers at Matanda health centre, where the first Ebola patient was treated, were the first to be vaccinated, the WHO said.
Congo has confirmed four cases of Ebola since a resurgence of the virus was announced on February 7 in Butembo, the epicentre of a previous outbreak that was declared over last June.
On Friday, 1,200 doses of Ebola vaccine and cold chain equipment arrived in the city, according to the WHO.
Separately, Guinea declared anew Ebola outbreak on Sunday, with seven confirmed cases and three deaths.
The Ebola virus causes severe vomiting and diarrhoea and is spread through contact with body fluids. The new vaccines have greatly improved survival rates in recent years.