Researchers reported Tuesday that the Ebola strain in the current outbreak in West Africa is less virulent than the first one that appeared in 1976. The news comes as the latest figures released by the World Health Organization (WHO) show that the number of Ebola cases reported in Guinea and neighbouring Sierra Leone has risen for a second consecutive week.
According to a recent study, the results of the test on monkeys carried out by scientists at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) are considered important as they suggest that the virus, which has caused at least 11,000 deaths, is not becoming more severe. Instead, “…the new study suggests the current virus has a decreased ability to cause disease in their animal model compared to the 1976 strain.”
The 1976 strain is known as the Mayinga strain while the one that emerged in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone late in 2013 is known as the Makona Strain. The 1976 Ebola outbreak was limited, killing 318 people in the Democratic Republic of Congo, formerly known as Zaire. The deadliest outbreak with this strain occurred in Uganda in 2000, when 425 people died. Both of these outbreaks had a weaker impact as they occurred in rural and sparsely populated areas.
The latest figures released by the WHO on Wednesday indicate that the number of Ebola cases in Guinea and Sierra Leone has risen for the second consecutive week. According to the latest report, in Guinea, 16 new cases were confirmed in the week ending 7 June, with 15 more reported in neighbouring Sierra Leone. In its latest situation report, the WHO indicates that the Ebola virus has infected 27,237 people and killed 11,158.
In the previous week, 13 new cases had been reported in Guinea, which represented a clear increase to the nine that were reported a week before that. The global health agency has voiced concerns that the areas affected in Guinea have increased as in the week leading up to 7 June, two new cases were confirmed in Guinea’s capital city, Conakry, which had been Ebola-free during the previous three weeks. The virus also reappeared in the western Guinean region of Kindia, where three new cases were confirmed during this reporting period. Officials have reported that the pattern is similar in neighbouring Sierra Leone, where 12 new cases were confirmed in the last week of May, compared to just three that were confirmed in the previous week.
On Tuesday, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon warned that as long as there is one Ebola case in the West African region “all countries are at risk,” urging all nations to support the final battles aimed at wiping out the deadly disease in Guinea and Sierra Leone.
Speaking to a General Assembly meeting on efforts to end the Ebola epidemic, which has killed over 11,100 people mainly in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, the UN chief stated, “we are on the home stretch now and what happens now is critical.” While Liberia, which was once the worst affected country, has now been declared Ebola-free, Ban has warned that in Guinea and Sierra Leone, “the battle has not yet been won,” and “any lapse in vigilance could allow the virus to spread.” Dr David Nabarro, the UN Ebola chief, told the assembly that the priority is to ensure that the outbreak ends as soon as possible, “which will take several weeks and may take a number of months… But everybody should be ready in case the disease recurs and needs to be controlled, especially in the coming 12 months.” Ban also disclosed that UN agencies who will be taking over responsibility for tackling the outbreak as the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Repose (UNMEER) scales down “will need considerable resources to go the distance and support recovery” in the three hardest-hit countries. UNMEER’s acting chief Peter Jan Graaff has indicated that UNMEER’s office in Mali closed on 31 March while its office in Liberia has handed over its operations to the UN country team. The Sierra Leone office is expected to end operations by the end of June, with Graaff indicating, “UNMEER could complete its transition by July 31 and be closed by the end of August,” noting however that if the situation deteriorates, the timeline could be changed “to ensure that the UN’s political leverage and convening power is maintained.” The UN Secretary General has indicated that he will convene an International Ebola Recovery Conference in New York on 10 July, which will aim to mobilize resources to start early recovery in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
On Wednesday, the World Health Organization (WHO) released its latest figures on the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. As of 31 May, there have been a total of 27,145 reported confirmed, probable and suspected cases of EVD in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, with 11,147 reported deaths. In the seven days leading up to 31 May, a total of 25 confirmed cases of EVD were reported from 4 prefectures in Guinea and 3 districts of Sierra Leone,
According to the WHO, “since the week ending 10 May, when a 10-month low of 9 cases of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) were reported from 2 prefectures of Guinea and 1 district of Sierra Leone, both the intensity and geographical area of EVD transmission have increased.” In the 7 days leading up to 31 May, a total of 13 new confirmed cases were reported in Guinea and 12 in Sierra Leone, with officials indicating that several cases in both countries arose from unknown sources of infection in areas that have not reported confirmed EVD cases for several weeks. This effectively indicates that chains of transmission continue to go undetected. Officials have noted that “rigours contact tracing, active case finding, and infection prevention and control must be maintained at current intensive levels in order to uncover and break every chain of transmission,” and have warned that the onset of the rainy season will make field operations more difficult from now onwards.
Two response teams from Guinea-Bissau have been deployed to the border with Guinea to assess several points of entry and sensitive communities. This is due to the proximity to Guinea-Bissau of the recent cluster of cases that have been reported in the northwestern Guinean prefecture of Boke. So far, the investigation team has not been able to locate the contact who had attended the funeral of a case in Boke and who is believed to have returned to a fishing community in Guinea-Bissau.
In the week leading up to 31 May, a total of 13 cases were reported in 4 western prefectures of Guinea.
Seven of these cases were reported from the prefecture of Forecariah, which borders Sierra Leone. Multiple chains of transmission gave rise to cases in 4 of Forcariah’s 10 sub-prefectures, however all cases were either registered contacts of a previous case or had an established epidemiological link to one. Five cases were concentrated in the central areas of the prefecture where the sub-prefectures of Farmoriah, Kaliah, and Moussayah intersect. The remaining cases were reported from the northwestern prefecture of Boke (1 case), which borders Guinea-Bissau; the west coast prefecture of Dubreka (4 cases), which borders the capital city Conakry; and the western inland prefecture of Fria (1 case). The cases in Boke and Dubreka were all registered contacts of cases linked to localized chains of transmission. The case that was reported in Fria however arose from an unknown source and is suspected to have originated from an as-yet unidentified chain of transmission in the neighbouring prefecture of Telimele. Officials have indicated that investigations into the origin of the case in Fria have been complicated by active and passive resistance from communities both in Fria and neighbouring Telimele.
On the ground sources in Guinea have reported that community engagement continues to prove challenging, particularly in all the 4 affected prefectures. There have been several reported incidents of violence that has been directed at field staff during the past week.
In the week leading up to 31 May, Sierra Leone reported a total of 12 cases in three districts.
Eight of these cases were reported from a densely populated area of the Kaffu Bullom chiefdom in the district of Port Loko, which is located just north of the capital, Freetown. All but one of these cases were registered contacts of previous cases within quarantined houses in the chiefdom. The additional case is from the same neighbourhood however it was not on a contact list and was living in a non-quarantined home at the time of symptom onset. The other cases were reported in the following districts: Kambia reported its first case for over 2 weeks on 31 May. The case was identified after a post-mortem test of a community death and was not a known contact of a previous case. The remaining three cases were reported from the capital city, Freetown. Officials in Freetown have indicated that at this time, none of those 3 cases can be linked to previous chains of transmission however investigations are at an early stage.
According to the latest figures released by the World Health Organization (WHO) this week, data shows the lowest weekly cases of Ebola since May 2014.
In the week leading up to 5 April, a total of 30 confirmed cases of Ebola virus disease (EVD) were recorded. This is the lowest weekly total since the third week of May 2014. Of the total 55 districts in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone that have reported at least one confirmed case of EVD since the outbreak began, 35 have not reported a case in over six weeks.
While Liberia and Sierra Leone have begun to decommission some treatment centres, the WHO has warned that there has been an increase in unsafe burials, particularly in Guinea, which could lead to more cases.
There have been a total of 25,515 confirmed, probable and suspected cases of EVD in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, with 10,572 deaths. In the past 21 days, a total of 191 EVD cases were recorded in the three countries.
Since recording one Ebola case in late March, Liberia has not recorded any new cases of the deadly disease since. The last confirmed case passed away on 27 March and Liberia is currently conducting the 42-day countdown to being officially declared free of the disease.
Guinea recorded 21 cases of EVD during this reporting period, compared to 57 confirmed the previous week. A total of six Guinean prefectures reported at least one confirmed case of EVD during this reporting period, a decline from the 7 prefectures that reported a case in the previous week. Affected prefectures are in the western area and include the capital city Conakry, which recorded 8 confirmed cases during this reporting period. The nearby prefectures of Coyah (1 case), Dubreka (1 case); Forecariah (6 cases), Fria (1 case) and Kindia (4 cases) also reported cases.
Sierra Leone reported a fifth consecutive weekly decrease from 25 confirmed cases in the week leading to 29 March, to 9 during this reporting period. Over this reporting period, Sierra Leone reported zero cases on 3 days.
Cases were reported in four western districts: Kambia (2 cases), Port Loko (1 case), Western Area Rural (1 case) and Western Area Urban (5 cases), which includes the capital city Freetown.
Liberia has released its last Ebola patient as the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that the West African country has gone a week without reporting any new Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) cases.
Beatrice Yardolo, 58, has been released from a Chinese-run treatment centre in the capital Monrovia’s Paynesville district after receiving two weeks of treatment. She was the last patient undergoing treatment for the disease in Liberia.
According to new figures released by the WHO this week, there were 132 new cases reported in Guinea and Sierra Leone in the week leading up to 1 March. For the first time since May 2014, Liberia reported no new cases of the deadly virus. While the West African country has now effectively begun its count towards being declared Ebola-free, WHO officials have warned that due to populations being mobile in the region, there could easily be a new outbreak in Liberia. According to WHO spokesman Gregory Hartl, “we look at the three countries as really a single country, so while its good news that Liberia itself has no new cases, the populations are so mobile in that region that there could easily be re-importations of cases… We have to get down to zero in all three countries before we can consider the thing beaten.”
In the week leading up to 1 March, Sierra Leone registered 81 new confirmed cases, up from the 65 that were reported the week before. According to the WHO, transmission in the country “remains widespread,” with officials highlighting that new cases emerged in eight different districts across the country, with rising numbers in the capital city Freetown, as well as in the Western Rural district and in the northern district of Bombali. WHO officials have indicated that the outbreak in Bombali is reportedly linked to a cluster of cases in the Aberdeen fishing community in Freetown. Efforts are currently underway in order to trace over 2,000 contacts associated with that cluster.
Last week, Guinea registered 51 new confirmed cases of EVD, marking a significant increase from the 35 new cases that had been reported during the previous seven-day period. The country, which in total has recorded 3,219 cases and 2,129 deaths, also saw an increase in the number of new cases recorded in the capital city Conakry and in the nearby district of Forecariah.
The WHO has reported that over the past week, both Guinea and Sierra Leone continued to see high numbers of people dying of Ebola in their communities, “suggesting that the need for early isolation and treatment is not yet understood, accepted or acted upon.” More than half of the 32 confirmed Ebola deaths recorded in Guinea over the last week occurred in the community rather than in treatment centres, while 16 percent did in Sierra Leone. WHO officials have also noted that unsafe burials continue to be a problem in the two West African countries, with 16 registered in the last week.
Since the outbreak began in December 2013, 23,969 people in nine countries have been infected with the virus, and 9,807 have died.
Total weekly case incidence has increased for the second consecutive week, with 144 new confirmed cases reported during the week leading up to 8 February. Guinea reported a sharp increase in cases, with 65 new confirmed cases during this reporting period, compared with 39 the week before. Transmission in Sierra Leone remains widespread, with 76 new confirmed cases during the reporting period. The resurgence of cases in the western district of Port Loko continued for a second week. Liberia continues to report a low number of new confirmed cases.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO) “despite improvements in case finding and management, burial practices and community engagement, the decline in case incidence has stalled,” adding that “the spike in cases in Guinea and continued widespread transmission in Sierra Leone underline the considerable challenges that must still be overcome to get to zero cases.”
WHO officials have disclosed that follow-up preparedness missions are planned for Mali and Senegal and will take place later this month. The missions will culminate in a meeting between Guinea, Mali and Senegal, which will focus on strengthening cross-border surveillance.
On 15 February, the leaders of the three worst affected West African countries vowed to eradicate Ebola by mid-April. At a summit in the Guinean capital, Conakry, the country’s president Alpha Conde, along with his Liberian and Sierra Leonean counterparts Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Ernest Bai Koroma, made the pledge. Hadja Saran Daraba Kaba, the secretary-general of the Mano River Union bloc, which groups the countries, confirmed that the presidents of the three states “commit to achieving zero Ebola infections within 60 days effective today.” Reading a joint declaration from the three leaders, Mr Kaba stated that they “recognized the efforts that have been made by the member states and the international community, which have resulted in the decline of Ebola infections and death rates.” The West African leaders agreed to formulate a joint economic recovery, which will be presented at a conference on Ebola, to be held by the European Union in Brussels on 3 March. According to a statement released by the Guinean presidency, “this comprehensive plan covers topics that affect virtually all key areas of development: education, agriculture, industry, trade, health and social action that will focus on the issue of the management of Ebola orphans and impoverished families.” In January, the World Bank disclosed that the economic damage of the Ebola outbreak could run to US $6.2 billion, adding that the epidemic “will continue to cripple the economies of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone even as transmission rates in the three countries show significant signs of slowing.” Earlier this month, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) announced US $100 million in debt relief for the three affected countries, with officials stating that they are preparing another US $160 million in concessional loans.
For a third week in a row, Guinea has reported an increase in case incidence. A total of eight prefectures reported a confirmed or probable case of Ebola during this reporting period.
The rise in new confirmed cases reported in Guinea was driven primarily by continued transmission in the capital city, Conakry, which reported 21 new confirmed cases during this reporting period; and the western prefecture of Forecariah, which reported 26 new confirmed cases. The east-Guinean prefecture of Lola reported seven new confirmed cases during this reporting period. The district of Kambia reported 11 confirmed cases. The north Guinean prefecture of Mali, which borders Senegal, reported its second confirmed case.
Officials have disclosed that a field team has been deployed to neighbouring Ivory Coast in order to assess the state of preparedness in the western region of the country, which borders Lola. According to the WHO, almost one-third of Guinea’s Ebola-affected prefectures reported at least one security incident in the week running up to 8 February.
Liberia reported a total of 3 confirmed cases during this reporting period. All of the cases originated in Montserrado county, which includes the capital Monrovia, and have been linked to a single chain of transmission. Eleven districts in Liberia have not reported a confirmed case of Ebola in over 42 days.
On Monday, schools in Liberia reopened after being delayed for months by the Ebola outbreak. A UNICEF spokeswoman disclosed Monday “here in Monrovia, children were coming back to school today. We went to one school this morning and saw how the school has implemented the protocols… The youth were washing their hands before entering the school premises and their temperature was checked. The teachers were also talking to the students about how to stay safe, and Ebola preventative measures.” UNICEF has been at the forefront of introducing safety measures aimed at combatting the spread of the deadly disease. Teachers have been trained to implement and monitor the safety measures, while soap and other hygiene materials have been distributed and mass mobilisation campaigns on Ebola prevention have been conducted nationwide.
Following a steep decline in case incidence from December until the end of January, transmission in Sierra Leone remains widespread. During the week leading up to 8 February, Sierra Leone reported a total of 76 cases, a decrease from the 80 cases that were confirmed in the week before however higher than the 65 confirmed cases that were reported in the week leading up to 25 January. A total of seven districts have reported new confirmed cases. The districts of Bo, Bonthe, Kailahun and Pujehun have all reported no cases for more than 21 days.
Transmission remains the most intense in the western region of the country. The capital city, Freetown, reported 19 new confirmed cases during this reporting period, compared with 22 the previous week. The neighbouring district of Port Loko saw a continuation of its recent resurgence of cases, with 28 new confirmed cases, compared with 36 cases that were reported during the previous week. The district of Kambia, which borders the Guinean prefecture of Forecariah, reported 11 new confirmed cases.
On 13 February, Sierra Leonean officials have placed hundreds of homes in the capital city under quarantine, in what is likely to be a huge blow to the country’s recover from the Ebola outbreak less than a month after the president lifted all travel restrictions. Obi Sesay, of the government’s National Ebola Response Centre, announced Friday “some 700 homes have been quarantined for 21 days in the tourism and fishing community of Aberdeen in the west of the capital Freetown, after the death of a fisherman who was later diagnosed Ebola positive.” Speaking to reporters, Sesay stated “twenty or more confirmed cases have been discovered in the last few days and we have opened a control center to deal with the crisis,” adding that officials “…are on top of the situation and people should not panic.” The Aberdeen area, which includes the popular Lumley Beach tourist resort, has been “flooded” with surveillance officers and contact tracers in a bid to ensure that the death does not turn into a serious outbreak. This new quarantine comes less than a month after President Ernest Bai Koroma revealed a “steady downward trend” in new Ebola cases, which resulted in him lifting country-wide quarantines and travel bans. When ending the measures on 23 January, which impacted half the country’s population, the president stated, “victory is in sight.” However officials on Wednesday reported that Sierra Leone has experienced a rise in new Ebola cases for the second week running. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), transmission remains “widespread” in Sierra Leone, which reported 76 new confirmed cases in the week leading up to 8 February.