Two unrelated Ebola outbreaks have erupted in two countries that have already faced some of the worst of the deadly viral disease.
Health officials in Guinea on Sunday declared an Ebola outbreak in Gouéké in N’Zerekore prefecture, located in the southeast area of the country. Officials have linked seven people to the outbreak so far, including three deaths. Six people fell ill with an Ebola-like illness after attending a funeral. Three of those cases have been confirmed, and two of the six have died.
The outbreak marks the first time Ebola has been found in Guinea since 2016, when the largest Ebola outbreak ever recorded ended. The outbreak, which spanned 2014 to 2016, tallied more than 28,600 cases and over 11,000 deaths. Guinea was one of the three hardest-hit countries in the outbreak.
“It’s a huge concern to see the resurgence of Ebola in Guinea, a country which has already suffered so much from the disease,” said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, the World Health Organization’s regional director for Africa. “However, banking on the expertise and experience built during the previous outbreak, health teams in Guinea are on the move to quickly trace the path of the virus and curb further infections.”
Meanwhile, officials in the Democratic Republic of the Congo have confirmed four cases in the North Kivu Province, where the second-largest Ebola outbreak ended in June of 2020. That outbreak had a total of nearly 3,500 cases and nearly 2,300 deaths. It’s unclear if the new cases are linked to that outbreak via latent, persistent infection or if it represents a new “spillover” event of the virus moving to humans from an unidentified animal host.
In both current situations, health officials are springing to action, working to trace contacts, mobilize health resources, and vaccinate suspected contacts.
“The outbreaks in Guinea and the Democratic Republic of the Congo are completely unrelated, but we face similar challenges in both,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a press conference February 15. “Both outbreaks are occurring in areas that have recent experience with Ebola and are benefiting from that experience… But both outbreaks are also in hard-to-reach, insecure areas, with some mistrust of outsiders.”
Tedros noted that in the DRC, of 149 case contacts, 43 people have been vaccinated, including 20 people who were vaccinated during the earlier outbreak.