With seven cases confirmed in the West African nation, including three deaths, officials declare new Ebola outbreak.
Guinea has declared an Ebola epidemic after three people died and four others tested positive for the virus in the country’s southeast.
The seven people fell ill with diarrhoea, vomiting and bleeding after attending a burial in Goueke, near the Liberian border. The infected patients have been isolated in treatment centres, the health ministry said on Sunday.
“Faced with this situation and in accordance with international health regulations, the Guinean government declares an Ebola epidemic,” the ministry said in a statement.
One of the victims was a nurse who fell ill in late January and was buried on February 1, National Health Security Agency chief Sakoba Keita told local media.
“Some people who took part in this funeral began to have symptoms of diarrhoea, vomiting, bleeding and fever a few days later,” he said.
Health Minister Remy Lamah said officials were “really concerned” about the deaths, the first since a 2013-2016 epidemic – which began in Guinea – left 11,300 dead across West Africa. The vast majority of cases were in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
Fighting Ebola again will place additional strain on health services in Guinea during the coronavirus pandemic. The country of some 12 million has so far recorded 14,895 coronavirus infections and 84 deaths.
The Ebola virus causes severe vomiting and diarrhoea and is spread through contact with body fluids. It has a much higher death rate than COVID-19, but unlike coronavirus it is not transmitted by asymptomatic carriers.
A second round of tests is being carried out to confirm the latest Ebola diagnosis and health workers are working to trace and isolate the contacts of the cases, state health agency ANSS said.
It reported Guinea would contact the World Health Organization (WHO) and other international health agencies to acquire Ebola vaccines. The 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,” the agency’s regional director for Africa Matshidiso Moeti said on Twitter.
WHO has viewed each new outbreak since 2016 with great concern, treating a recent one in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) as an international health emergency.
On Sunday, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus tweeted the agency had been informed of suspected cases of the deadly disease in Guinea.
“Confirmatory testing under way,” the tweet said, adding the WHO’s regional and country offices were “supporting readiness and response efforts”.
Speaking to Al Jazeera from the Guinean capital, Conakry, Dr Yuma Taido – of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies – said it was not clear how people had come into contact with the virus.
“We are preparing to manage the outbreak. We can’t explain yet how this epidemic came about. The response team are heading to the epicentre of the outbreak from today,” Taido said.
Meanwhile next door in Liberia, President George Weah on Sunday put his country’s health authorities on heightened alert.
Weah “has mandated the Liberian health authorities and related stakeholders in the sector to heighten the country’s surveillance and preventative activities in the wake of reports of the emergence of the deadly Ebola virus disease in neighbouring Guinea”, his office said in a statement.
Neighouring DRC 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.
DRC, which declared the six-month epidemic over in November, confirmed a fourth case in North Kivu province on Sunday.
The widespread use of Ebola vaccinations, which were administered to more than 40,000 people, helped curb the disease.
The 2013-2016 spread sped up the development of the 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.