Western Africa Declares Ebola Outbreak While Facing A COVID-19 Crisis. Will A Ebola/SARS-CoV-2 Reassortant Strain Emerge?
The health minister in Guinea has just declared an Ebola outbreak a few hours ago and said that the country is entering an 'epidemic situation' as seven Ebola cases have been confirmed including three deaths while the country is still in the midst of a COVID-19 crisis. Certain experts are predicting the high possibility of a reassortant strain
emerging from the region. Such a recombinant strain between the Ebola virus and the SARS-CoV-2 viruses could really mean ‘catastrophic times’ ahead in this ongoing COVID-19 pandemic that is already recently plagued with emerging variants.
Health officials told Thailand Medical News after an emergency meeting in the capital, “Very early this morning, the Conakry laboratory confirmed the presence of the Ebola virus.”
Dr Remy Lamah, the health minister, had earlier spoken of four deaths. It was not immediately clear why the new toll was lower.
This Ebola cases marked the first known resurgence of Ebola in west Africa since the 2013-16 epidemic that began in Guinea and killed more than 11,300 people across the region. The virus was first identified in 1976 in Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
The WHO (A World Health Organization) representative in Conakry said the agency would send more medical help quickly.
Sakoba Keita, the head of the National Agency for Health Security, said one person had died in late January in Gouécké, south-east Guinea, near the Liberian border.
The Ebola victim was buried on 1 February and some people who took part in this funeral began to have symptoms of diarrhea, vomiting, bleeding and fever a few days later
Specimen samples tested by a laboratory set up by the European Union in Guéckédou, located in the same region, revealed the presence of Ebola in some of them on Friday, said Keita. He added that with a total of seven cases and three deaths, Guinea was in an “Ebola epidemic situation”.
Alfred George Ki-Zerbo, the WHO representative told a press briefing, “We are going to rapidly deploy crucial assets to help Guinea, which already has considerable experience treating the disease. The arsenal is stronger now and we will take advantage of that to contain this situation as fast as possible. The WHO is on full alert and is in contact with the manufacturer of a vaccine to ensure the necessary doses are made available as quickly as possible to help fight back.”
It was reported that In Guinea’s neighbor Liberia, the president, George Weah, put the country’s health authorities on heightened alert on Sunday.
“President Weah has mandated the Liberian health authorities and related stakeholders in the sector to heighten the country’s surveillance and preventative activities”, his office said in a statement.
However no cases of Ebola had been detected in Liberia so far, it added. “The president’s instruction is intended to ensure Liberia acts proactively to avoid any epidemic situation, the kind Liberia witnessed in 2014.”
President Weah also told health authorities “to immediately engage communities in towns and villages bordering Guinea and increase anti-Ebola measures”, the statement said.
The DRC however has faced several outbreaks of the illness, with the WHO on Thursday confirming a resurgence three months after authorities declared the end of the country’s latest outbreak. The country had declared the six-month epidemic over in November. It was the country’s eleventh Ebola outbreak, claiming 55 lives out of 130 cases.
It was said that the widespread use of vaccinations, which were administered to more than 40,000 people, helped curb the disease there.
Also, the 2013-16 outbreaks sped up the development of a vaccine against Ebola, with a global emergency stockpile of 500,000 doses planned to respond quickly to future outbreaks, the vaccine alliance Gavi said in January.
In a statement posted to Facebook, the Guinean minister of health said officials plan to isolate all suspected cases, begin contact tracing, and work on getting doses of the Ebola vaccine from the World Health Organization.
Meanwhile it is also reported that COVID-19 cases in the region is also starting to surge and with the Ebola outbreak and lack of testing and proper medical care in the region, the chances of a reassortant strain emerging in such perfect breeding grounds remains a high possible risk.
For more developments about the Ebola outbreak or about possible debut of such a reassortant strain
, keep on logging to Thailand Medical News.