Guinea on Tuesday launched a vaccination campaign against the Ebola virus, as four people have now died from the disease.
The West African country is battling a resurgence of the deadly hemorrhagic virus – the first in the region since a 2013-16 epidemic killed more than 11,300.
On Tuesday, there were eight cases – four of which have been confirmed – and four deaths, with cases spread between the city of Gouécké in the southeast of the country, the capital, Conakry and the Kankan region.
The “zero patient” would be a nurse from Gouécké who died at the end of January. Several people who attended his funeral on February 1 then contracted the virus.
Some 11,000 doses of Merck vaccine arrived in Conakry from the headquarters of the World Health Organization in Geneva on Monday, after a 24-hour delay due to a dust storm across the Sahara. An additional 8,700 doses are expected to arrive from the United States later this week.
The vaccination campaign uses the “ring strategy” where all people who have come in contact with a confirmed Ebola patient receive the vaccine, as well as frontline and health workers. The launch, in Gouécké, began with the vaccination of health workers.
“The last time Guinea faced an Ebola outbreak, vaccines were still under development,” WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.
“Thanks to the experience and expertise it has accumulated, combined with safe and effective vaccines, Guinea has the tools and know-how to respond to this epidemic. WHO is proud to help the government engage and empower communities, protect health and other frontline workers, save lives, and deliver high quality care.
Health workers now have many more tools to fight Ebola than during the 2013-16 epidemic. There are now two vaccines – one of which was tested in Guinea in 2016 – several treatments, as well as innovations such as the “Ebola cube” which protects health workers.
All these tools have been deployed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo which has fought several outbreaks in recent years.
WHO says the rapid deployment of the Ebola vaccine – the outbreak was not declared until February 14 – is in part due to the expertise Guinea acquired during the Ebola outbreak in Africa from West in 2014. About fifty Guineans were also deployed to the DRC to support the country’s response during the last three Ebola outbreaks.
“The speed with which Guinea has managed to start its vaccination efforts is remarkable and is largely due to the enormous contribution of its experts to the recent Ebola outbreaks in the DRC,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, Regional Director of the DRC. WHO for Africa.
“The Africans who support their fellow Africans to fight one of the most dangerous diseases on the planet are a testament to the emergency response capacity that we have built over the years on the continent.”
About fifty international and national WHO experts, including vaccinators, are already on the ground in Guinea and by the end of the month, more than 100 WHO experts are expected to be part of the response to contain the Ebola epidemic.
Neighboring Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Senegal and Sierra Leone have been put on alert for the disease. The suspected cases in Liberia and Sierra Leone both tested negative.
Meanwhile, as of February 21, four people have died from Ebola in a new outbreak in DRC’s North Kivu province.
A vaccination campaign was launched on February 15, but those responsible were greeted with suspicion and suspicion by the local population.
The North Kivu region was the scene of a two-year epidemic that only ended last June, as efforts to contain the virus were hampered by violence and mistrust.
Eugene Nzanzu Salita, the provincial health minister of North Kivu province, told TBEN news agency that residents of the region were not taking the new epidemic seriously enough. “Some families categorically refuse to have their homes disinfected or to organize a dignified and safe funeral,” the doctor said.
“People have yet to understand that Ebola has reappeared. It is not yet clear to them.”
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