By Lerato Ndlovu
World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared that the second Ebola outbreak that emerged in Guinea in mid-February is over.
Cases of the disease were reported in the country in February before spreading into neighbouring Liberia, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Sierra Leone and beyond after it had ended in 2016.
According to WHO a total of 16 confirmed and seven probable cases were reported in Guinea’s latest outbreak in which 11 patients survived and 12 lives lost, shortly after the infections were detected.
WHO Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the 2014-16 lessons helped the organisation and partners act rapidly and Guinea on its own managed to control its spread across its boarders.
“I commend the affected communities, the government and people of Guinea, health workers, partners and everyone else whose dedicated efforts made it possible to contain this Ebola outbreak.
“Based on the lessons learned from the 2014–16 outbreak and through rapid, coordinated response efforts, community engagement, effective public health measures and the equitable use of vaccines, Guinea managed to control the outbreak and prevent its spread beyond its borders. Our work in Guinea continues, including supporting survivors to access post-illness care,” he said.
WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti said they have shipped around 24 000 Ebola vaccine doses and supported the vaccination of nearly 11 000 people at high risk, including over 2800 frontline workers.
“More than 100 WHO experts were on the ground coordinating key aspects of the response such as infection prevention and control, disease surveillance, testing, vaccination and treatment using new drugs. Collaboration with communities was also enhanced to raise awareness about the virus and ensure their involvement and ownership of the efforts to curb the disease.
“Although this Ebola outbreak flared up in the same area as the West Africa one which killed 11 000 people, thanks to new innovations and lessons learned, Guinea managed to contain the virus in four months.
“We are getting faster, better and smarter at fighting Ebola. But while this outbreak is over, we must stay alert for a possible resurgence and ensure the expertise in Ebola expands to other health threats such as COVID-19.”
While the latest Ebola outbreak was limited to Guinea, to prevent cross-border infections, WHO supported six of the country’s neighbours to ramp up preparedness measures, including stepping up surveillance and screening at border crossings and within high-risk communities, as well as enhancing coordination between governments and the respective health services.
WHO continues to support Guinea in its efforts to remain vigilant, maintain surveillance and build capacity to respond quickly to a possible resurgence of the virus. An Ebola laboratory, treatment infrastructure, logistics capacity and infection prevention measures have been reinforced to better respond to the disease as well as other health emergencies.