Following outbreaks of Ebola disease in Guinea and the Democratice Republic of Congo, the World Health Organization (WHO) says it has concluded plans to deploy more than 100 health experts to the region to help provide the needed assistance towards curbing the outbreak.
This is in addition to a team of eight experts from the WHO Regional Office for Africa in Brazzaville that will be leaving soon.
WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, who stated this in Abuja during a virtual press conference also added that fforts are ongoing to step up surveillance, contact-tracing, testing and treatment as well as preparing for vaccination.
“We are hard at work, shifting quickly through the gears to get ahead of the virus. With experts and emergency supplies already getting on the ground, the response is off to a strong start“Our collective, quick action is crucial to averting an uncontrolled spread of Ebola amid the COVID-19 pandemic which has already pushed health workers and health facilities to the edge.”
She also added that humanitarian flight arrived on 15 February in N’Zerekore with 700 kg of medical equipment donated by WHO and partners. “A consignment of more than 11 000 doses of Ebola vaccine is expected to arrive in Guinea this weekend. In addition, more than 8500 doses will be shipped from the United States of America for a total of 20 000 doses. Vaccination is set to kick off shortly afterwards. A 30-strong vaccination team has already been mobilized locally and is ready to deploy as soon as the vaccines are received.
Meanwhile, in the DRC, so far there are four confirmed Ebola cases, including two deaths that are epidemiologically linked. WHO has around 20 experts on the ground supporting national and provincial health authorities. About 8000 vaccine doses were still available in the country at the end of the 11th Ebola outbreak. The vaccination of people at high risk was officially launched in Butembo, the outbreak’s epicentre on 15 February. So far nearly 70 people have been vaccinated. The quick rollout of vaccines is a testament to the enormous local capacity built in the previous outbreaks by WHO and partners.
She also added “WHO has released US$ 1.25 million to support the response in Guinea and to reinforce Ebola readiness in neighbouring Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Senegal and Sierra Leone. Additionally, the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund has disbursed US$ 15 million to support the response in Guinea and DRC and readiness in the neighbouring countries.
“With the epicentre of the Ebola outbreak in Guinea being a border area, countries in the sub-region are on high alert and increasing public health measures and surveillance in border towns and communities to quickly detect and respond to possible cross-border infections.
The ongoing response in Guinea and preparedness in neighbouring countries is building upon the experience gained during the 2014–2016 Ebola outbreak in West Africa. WHO and partners worked with national teams to build capacity in all the critical areas of surveillance and response.
The West Africa Ebola outbreak began in Guinea and spread across land borders to Liberia and Sierra Leone. When it was finally brought under control there were 28 000 cases and 11 000 deaths, making it the deadliest since the virus was first detected in 1976.
Ebola is an acute severe viral illness and is extremely lethal. It is characterized by sudden onset of fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headache, nausea and sore throat. This can be followed by vomiting, diarrhoea, impaired kidney and liver function, and in some cases, both internal and external bleeding.