On February 14, health officials in Guinea confirmed an Ebola outbreak in the community of Gouéké in N’Zerekore prefecture, with three people dead and a further four infected so far. An epidemic has been declared, and the country has commenced contract tracing and isolation of suspected Ebola cases.
These are the first cases confirmed in Guinea since the Western Africa Ebola virus epidemic ended in 2016. The epidemic began in 2013, and left 2,544 dead in Guinea and 11,325 dead in total, mainly also in Liberia and Sierra Leone.
“I confirm it’s Ebola. The results prove it,” said Guinea’s Minister of Health Remy Lamah to The Associated Press.
An Ebola infection takes between 2 and 21 days to show symptoms, and a person cannot spread the virus until symptoms develop. These symptoms range from a headache and muscle pain to impaired liver and kidney function and blood oozing from the gums. The fatality rate of Ebola virus disease is around 50 percent.
All of the people infected with the viral disease attended a funeral on February 1 of a nurse who died on January 28. After the funeral, they all showed symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, and fever. The origin of the cases is currently unknown, although the virus is usually originally transmitted to humans from animals, and community funerals involving attendees washing the body of the deceased can spread the virus in an outbreak’s early stages. Ebola is transmitted person-to-person via contact with the bodily fluids or corpses of the infected.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), staff are already on the ground in the area to help manage the outbreak. To identify the specific strain of Ebola involved, samples from the confirmed cases have been sent to the Institut Pasteur in Senegal for full genome sequencing.
“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 WHO regional director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso 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.”
This news comes just a week after an Ebola outbreak was declared in the Democratic Republic of the Congo on February 7. A woman in North Kivu Province presented with nasal bleeding on January 25, after which she was treated at two local health centers and a hospital in Butembo city. She died on February 4 and was buried on February 5 – however, as the WHO noted, she was not buried under safe burial practices. It has been noted that her husband survived an Ebola outbreak in 2020, and the virus can linger in bodily fluids such as semen for up to a year. As of February 8, 117 contacts to the case in Congo had been identified.