Ebola now in Guinea and Sierra Leone | Africa : Commodity Bridgehead to Asia | Scoop.it

bolMarch 24 (Bloomberg) -- Africa’s biggest Ebola outbreak in seven years has probably spread from Guinea to neighboring Liberia and also threatens Sierra Leone.

Five people are suspected to have died from the disease in Lofa county in northern Liberia, Bernice Dahn, Liberia’s chief medical officer, said at a briefing today. At least 86 cases and 59 deaths have been recorded across Guinea, the west African country’s health ministry said today. The capital, Conakry, hasn’t been affected, government spokesman Albert Damantang Camara said, after the United Nations Children’s Fund said the outbreak had spread there.

“The forest region where Unicef delivered the emergency assistance on Saturday is located along the border with Sierra Leone and Liberia with many people doing business and moving between the three countries,” said Laurent Duvillier, a Unicef spokesman, in an e-mail today. “Risk of international spread should be taken seriously.”

Unicef plans to dispatch 5 metric tons of aid, including medical supplies, to the worst-affected areas. Suspected cases of the lethal hemorrhagic disease were being investigated in Guinea’s southeast border areas, the World Health Organization said yesterday.

“The three cases, which were registered in Conakry, have no link with Ebola,” Camara said. “The analyses were made abroad. The outbreak of the disease may be heavier than 59 but the health ministry will release a statement on the disease soon.”

‘Particularly Devastating’

The Geneva-based WHO hasn’t previously recorded any outbreaks of Ebola in Guinea, the world’s biggest exporter of bauxite, the ore used to make aluminum. At least eight health-care workers who were in contact with infected patients have died, hindering the response and threatening normal care in a country already lacking in medical personnel, Unicef said.

“This outbreak is particularly devastating because medical staff are among the first victims,” New York-based Unicef said. There is no specific treatment or vaccine for Ebola.

Supplies delivered over the weekend are being distributed to health-care workers, said Timothy La Rose, a Unicef spokesman, in an e-mail today.

“We are focusing on prevention,” La Rose said. “We are alerting the public on how to avoid contracting Ebola. Since there is no treatment, this is the best way to stop the spread.”

Isolation Units

Medecins Sans Frontieres is setting up isolation and treatment units while workers at Rio Tinto Plc’s operations have been issued with personal protection equipment. The five latest cases were in the towns of Gueckedou and Macenta, it said.

The Ebola virus is transmitted through contact with blood or bodily fluids of an infected person or wild animal, according to the WHO. It was first identified in 1976 in Congo and Sudan, when two different strains of the virus killed 431 of the 602 people infected.

Mali and Ivory Coast called for vigilance to prevent the disease from spreading across their borders. The countries border Guinea along with Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea-Bissau and Senegal.

Mali’s health ministry held a crisis meeting yesterday and called on citizens to be “vigilant” on its website. Liberia’s New Democrat newspaper ran an editorial in which it said there was an immediate need for increased surveillance on all border posts with Guinea. Many of the goods sold in Monrovia, Liberia’s capital, come from Guinea.

Ivory Coast set up a coordinating post in Man on the border with Guinea and will increase surveillance and run awareness campaigns, the country’s health ministry said.

Recent Ebola outbreaks have occurred in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2012 and in Uganda in 2011, according to the WHO.

To contact the reporters on this story: Ougna Camara in Conakry at
ocamara@bloomberg.net
; Elise Zoker in Monrovia at
ezoker@bloomberg.net
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Antony Sguazzin at
asguazzin@bloomberg.net
Jason Gale, Robert Valpuesta