On February 14, the government of Guinea declared an Ebola outbreak after three people tested positive in Gouécké, a rural community. As of March 2, 17 cases had been reported with seven deaths (13 confirmed and four likely).
Fortunately, the Guinean Ministry of Health and Public Hygiene quickly set up three vaccination centers nearby, each of which can vaccinate 100 people a day – the first time an Ebola vaccine has been used in the country. As of February 28, 1002 people had been vaccinated in Guinea, including 66 high-risk people who had come into contact with suspicious cases.
“In the coming days we will be able to vaccinate more people in order to contain this pandemic properly,” says Bachir Kanté, an official at the Ministry of Health.
The Ebola virus is more deadly than the coronavirus, but it spreads less quickly and gives West Africa a deadline to control its spread, says Christian Happi of the African Center of Excellence on Infectious Disease Genomics in Ede, Nigeria.
“Our collective, rapid action is crucial to prevent the uncontrolled spread of Ebola,” says Matshidiso Moeti, World Health Organization regional director for Africa.
Guinea’s last Ebola outbreak in 2014 spread to Liberia and Sierra Leone. When it was finally brought under control, it was the deadliest Ebola outbreak since the virus was first discovered in 1976, with around 28,000 cases and 11,000 deaths.
The most recent Ebola outbreak in Guinea is close to the borders with Liberia, Sierra Leone and Côte d’Ivoire. Therefore, neighboring countries are increasing their willingness to contain the spread of the outbreak.
The Guinean outbreak is coinciding with an unrelated outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Democratic Republic of the Congo held about 8,000 doses of emergency vaccine after its last outbreak in 2020 and has already started using them.
Both nations are fighting their outbreaks in addition to dealing with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. In Guinea, 16,005 cases of Covid-19 and 89 deaths have been confirmed, while the Democratic Republic of the Congo has recorded 25,144 cases and 700 deaths.
Vaccination strategies against the two viruses differ, says John Nkenkasong of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “For covid-19, you want to vaccinate as many people as possible to achieve herd immunity, but for Ebola you want to identify close contacts and people at highest risk for ring vaccinations,” he said.
According to Kanté, Guinea’s Covid-19 response has benefited from the contact tracking and testing capabilities acquired during the 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak, while the ongoing Ebola vaccination effort is helping the land testing efforts used for Covid-19 vaccination could. that haven’t started yet.
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