In March of 2014, the Ebola virus ravaged countries in western Africa, quickly becoming the deadliest occurrence of the disease since 1973. As of January of this year, there have been a total of 28,637 thousand reported cases and 11,315 thousand deaths classified as probable, confirmed and suspected. This month, yet another Ebola flare-up is ravaging western Africa.
While the full force of the Ebola spread has been contained, health professionals are still fighting to drop the number of cases to zero. This month, a total of five people have died in Guinea’s recent Ebola flare-up. Naturally, the question arises whether or not this recent flare-up will spread to the same epidemic levels that West Africa had seen in the past.
Ultimately, the major difference between this recent Ebola flare-up and the huge outbreak of 2014 is that health professionals have been closely monitoring the situation. The Alliance for International Medical Action (ALIMA) has reopened its treatment unit in Nzerekore the area most affected. UNICEF also has a team in the region providing protective equipment and medicine.
The Guinea Ebola flare-up began in mid-March when the World Health Organization was alerted to three potential deaths and two suspected cases of Ebola. The emergency coordination mechanism was then reactivated, according to the WHO’s official statement, “deploying dozens of epidemiologists, surveillance experts, contact tracers, vaccinators, social mobilizers, health promoters, and infection prevention and control experts to support the effort.”
Writing for Care2, Steve Williams notes, “It’s important to emphasize that these new cases represent a contained incident.” A similar Ebola flare-up occurred in Sierra Leone in March, but this sudden rise in Ebola incidence was declared contained by the WHO. As a response to the Guinea flare-up, WHO is tracking 816 people that have come in contact with people contaminated with the virus or virus-ridden corpses.
Liberia is also taking steps to prevent new cases. The country has decided to close its border with Guinea. Lenn Eugene Nanobe, the country’s information minister, told Reuters, “We have ordered the border with Guinea closed with immediate effect. The border will remain closed until the situation in Guinea improves.” WHO declared Liberia Ebola free last January.
Reuters reported recently that Dr. Margaret Chan, the WHO director-general, accepted the recommendations of a committee of independent experts who called for lifting any travel and trade restrictions affecting Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. “The Ebola outbreak in West Africa is no longer a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC),” Chan told a news briefing at WHO headquarters in Geneva.
– Michael A. Clark