Ebola Situation Update: 16 February 2015February 16, 2015 in Ebola, Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone
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.