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West African countries step up Ebola preparedness

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As Ebola vaccination intensifies in Guinea, the country’s neighboring countries are on high alert, urgently preparing to detect, isolate and manage all cases and rapidly eradicate potential cross-border epidemics.

Nine cases, including five deaths, have been reported in Guinea. Although no confirmed cases of Ebola have been recorded outside the country, the latest outbreak in N’Zérékore prefecture is close to porous borders with Liberia, Sierra Leone and Côte d’Ivoire.

The six countries bordering Guinea are in the process of finalizing their national operational preparedness and preparedness plans in accordance with a WHO preparedness assessment tool. The general state of readiness in the six countries is almost 66%, which is still below the benchmark of 80%.

Surveillance and screening are intensified at border crossings and in high-risk communities. Rapid response teams are deployed in border areas to support health district preparedness plans. Testing and treatment facilities are being expanded and efforts are being made to ensure communities take full ownership and mobilize around public health responses. To date, 20 alerts of suspected cases have been reported in three countries. All have tested negative for Ebola.

“We have learned the hard lessons of history and we know that with Ebola and other health emergencies, preparedness works. It’s act now or pay later in lost lives and ruined economies. Systematic surveillance, comprehensive preparations and strong cross-border coordination are essential to detect any case and ensure that it is quickly isolated, treated and that vaccination of high-risk contacts begins quickly, ”said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.

Guinea acted quickly to start providing the Ebola vaccine to high-risk people, launching a vaccination campaign in Gouecke, N’Zérékoré prefecture, epicenter of the epidemic, a little over a week after the notification of the first case. To date, WHO reports reveal that 225 people have been vaccinated in Guinea, including 66 high-risk contacts.

WHO has disbursed US $ 1.25 million to support the response in Guinea and strengthen Ebola preparedness in neighboring Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Senegal and Sierra Leone. The United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund has also released $ 15 million to support the response to the Ebola outbreaks in Guinea and the Democratic Republic of the Congo as well as preparedness in neighboring countries.

In Guinea itself, about 65 international and national WHO experts are on the ground and the government has supported a special flight to bring doses of the rVSV-ZEBOV Ebola vaccine, ultra-cold chain containers, personal protective equipment. and other medical supplies from Conakry. at N’Zerekore.

In the province of North Kivu in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, eight confirmed cases of Ebola and four deaths were recorded during the last outbreak declared on February 7. Persistent insecurity, tragically illustrated by the recent death of Italian Ambassador Luca Attanasio to the region, is hampering efforts to detect cases and trace contacts of those infected. More than 650 people have been vaccinated to date. About 8,000 doses of the vaccine were still available in the country at the end of the 11th Ebola outbreak. An additional 4,320 doses are expected to arrive early next week.

Ebola virus disease is a serious and fatal disease that typically kills about half of those infected. It is spread between people through direct contact with the blood and body fluids of infected people and surfaces and materials contaminated with these fluids.

The 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak in West Africa began in Guinea and spread to Liberia and Sierra Leone. When it was finally brought under control, there were around 28,000 cases and 11,000 deaths, making it the deadliest since the virus was detected in 1976.

Dr Moeti spoke at a virtual press conference today facilitated by APO Group. She was accompanied by Dr Bachir Kanté, Senior Advisor, Ministry of Health, Guinea, and Dr Franklin Asiedu-Bekoe, Director of Public Health, Ghana Health Service. Dr Richard Mihigo, Immunization and Vaccine Development Program Coordinator, WHO Regional Office for Africa, Dr Nsenga Ngoy, Emergency Response Program Director, WHO Regional Office for Africa, and Dr Nicksy Gumede-Moeletsi, regional virologist, WHO were also present to answer questions. Regional Office for Africa.

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