US/World

Ebola Outbreak In Guinea Kills 61 With 109 Confirmed Cases, WHO Says: How Far Has The Virus Come?

Ebola Has Killed 69 In Guinea Since January
WHO officials continue the fight against Ebola virus in Guinea. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Sixty-nine people have died since January of Ebola in the West African country of Guinea with 109 cases now confirmed by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Sakoba Keita, who’s leading the government’s ebola prevention efforts, says the limited outbreak remains dangerous. “The biological analysis can be achieved henceforth quickly,” he told Time magazine this week, referring to the ongoing epidemiological operation.

Near the Ebola River in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the deadly infectious disease first emerged in 1976, simultaneously striking Sudan. Yet after nearly two generations, epidemiologists have developed no cure for the highly fatal disease, formerly known as Ebola haemorrhagic fever. The pathogen leaps from animals in the wild to human populations in Central and West Africa, near tropical rainforests — and is then spread rapidly from person to person. The disease is transmitted through direct contact with blood and tissue of infected animals or people, with the greatest risk for infection incurred by health workers fighting the disease.

Although no vaccine yet exists for ebola in animals or humans, the world health community fought the infection this month with 3.5 tons of medical supplies sent to Conakry, the capital of Guinea for distribution by WHO officials. Those supplies included disposable protective clothing for health workers, as well as hazmat-secure burial material for the infected dead.

“With protection equipment, we feel reassured and can do our job to help patients,” said Dr. Lansana Kourouma, head of emergency care at the Chinese-Guinean Friendship Hospital, where five patients remained under observation this week. WHO said the country Senegal had also sent technicians to the hospital to conduct on-site rapid testing for the disease.

International health officials continue to meet daily with Guinea’s national crisis committee to coordinate disease surveillance, clinical management, logistics, and social mobilization, WHO’s Dr. Rene Zitsamele-Coddy said in a press release. “As soon as the outbreak was confirmed on March 21, we started to work with [Guinea officials] and other partners to implement necessary measures,” she said. ”It is the first time the country is facing an Ebola outbreak, so WHO expertise in the area is valuable.”

Perhaps most important, public health officials continue to disseminate messages to the people of Guinea to avoid confusion about how the disease spreads.

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