Guinea declares Ebola outbreak after 3 deaths

Guinea declared a new Ebola outbreak on Sunday, as tests came back positive for the virus after at least three people died and four fell ill in the country’s southeast — the first resurgence of the disease there since the world’s worst outbreak from  2013 to 2016.

The seven patients fell ill with diarrhea, vomiting and bleeding after attending a burial in Gouéké sub-prefecture. Those still alive have been isolated in treatment centres, the Health Ministry said.

It was not clear if a person buried on Feb. 1 had also died of Ebola. She was a nurse at a local health centre who died from an unspecified illness after being transferred for treatment to Nzérékoré, a city near the border with Liberia and Ivory Coast.

“Faced with this situation and in accordance with international health regulations, the Guinean government declares an Ebola epidemic,” the ministry said in a statement.

The 2013-16 outbreak of Ebola in West Africa started in Nzérékoré, whose proximity to busy borders hampered efforts to contain the virus. It went on to kill at least 11,300 people, with the vast majority of cases in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Fighting Ebola again will place additional strain on health services in Guinea as they battle the coronavirus. Guinea, a country of about 12 million people, has so far recorded 14,895 coronavirus infections and 84 deaths.

A medical worker checks the quarantine area of the Matanda Hospital in Butembo on Feb. 11. Guinea and the Congo are both battling cases of Ebola and the novel coronavirus simultaneously. (Al-hadji Kudra Maliro/The Associated Press)

The Ebola virus, which causes severe vomiting and diarrhea, is spread through contact with body fluids. It has a much higher death rate than COVID-19, but unlike the coronavirus it is not transmitted by asymptomatic carriers.

The ministry said health workers are attempting to trace and isolate the contacts of the Ebola cases and will open a treatment centre in Gouéké, which is less than an hour’s drive from Nzérékoré.

The authorities have also asked the World Health Organization (WHO) for Ebola vaccines, it said. The new vaccines have greatly improved survival rates in recent years.

“WHO is ramping up readiness & response efforts to this potential resurgence of #Ebola in West Africa, a region which suffered so much from Ebola in 2014,” Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO’s regional director for Africa, said on Twitter.

The vaccines and improved treatments helped efforts to end the second-largest Ebola outbreak on record, which was declared over in Democratic Republic of the Congo last June after nearly two years and more than 2,200 deaths.

But on Sunday, DRC reported a fourth new case of Ebola in North Kivu province, where a resurgence of the virus was announced on Feb. 7.

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