Liberia and Guinea discharge final Ebola patients in latest flare-up and begin 42 days of heightened surveillance

uni1462226944Liberia’s and Guinea’s last known Ebola patients in a latest flare-up of the disease that hit both countries have now been discharged. All remaining contacts of confirmed cases that were placed under -week period of medical monitoring have been cleared.

Liberia’s Ministry of Health, WHO and partners involved in the response held a ceremony at the Ebola treatment facility in Monrovia to celebrate the recovery and discharge of -year-old boy, the final patient in the flare-up in Liberia. -year-old brother recovered a week earlier. April, the country also began -day period of increased surveillance – amounting to -day incubation cycles of the virus.

Guinea’s final Ebola patient, -year-old man, tested negative for the virus a second time April and returned to his village in the southern prefecture of Macenta to a warm welcome.

Guinea began -day countdown on that day, and will be able to declare the flare-up over May if there are no additional cases.

An inter-agency cross-border response

This latest re-emergence of Ebola came to light March when Guinean national health authorities and WHO were alerted to suspect deaths and infections in the southern prefecture of Nz?r?kor?.

A rapid case investigation confirmed the new cluster of Ebola cases.

In all, 8 people in Guinea’s Nz?r?kor? and Macenta prefectures died from Ebola survived during the flare-up. Most of the cases were from the same extended family. More ,000 people who may have had contact with the confirmed cases were identified, and following intensive community sensitization and outreach, the majority of the contacts were placed under medical observation days. To help contain the spread, 1500 contacts and contacts of theirs were vaccinated with an experimental Ebola vaccine. Providing the vaccine is part of an ongoing drug trial, the outcome of which will inform its possible licensing for future use.

Francis Kateh, Deputy Minister of Health, Liberia, and Chief Medical Officer, at a ceremony to celebrate the recovery and discharge boys

The effort to control the outbreak in Guinea was not without resistance. Some high-risk contacts went missing, including a woman whose husband was among the Ebola fatalities. Epidemiological investigation teams later discovered that she travelled with children to Liberia to stay with relatives.

She came down with Ebola symptoms there, and died March, spreading the flare-up of Ebola to that country. Two of her three boys also became infected, but both survived.

They are -year-old boy and -year old brother who were released from the care centre last week.

Similarly to Guinea, Liberian health authorities and partners worked to quickly trace, isolate and monitor the health of identified contacts of confirmed cases, in all, and step up infection prevention and control measures in health facilities and the impacted community.

Cross-border cooperation was also stepped up. The Ministries of Health in Guinea and Liberia, with WHO and the US Centers for Disease Control, organized additional information sharing, surveillance and overall coordination with partners in Nz?r?kor?.

Origins of transmission

Genetic sequencing from blood samples of the confirmed cases indicate the source of the virus is from a single and known transmission chain – suggesting exposure to infected body fluids from a survivor – rather than a re-introduction of Ebola virus from the wild.

WHO continuously stresses that flare-ups of Ebola like this one are likely to occur for some time, although with decreasing frequency, due to virus persistence in some survivors.

It has been documented that Ebola virus can live in tissues and fluids of survivors, for well over a year.

WHO is working with the Ebola-affected countries to improve disease surveillance for Ebola and other infectious diseases, and strengthen health services to include improved clinical care, screening and counselling for survivors.

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About Cholo Brooks 16924 Articles
Joel Cholo Brooks is a Liberian journalist who previously worked for several international news outlets including the BBC African Service. He is the CEO of the Global News Network which publishes two local weeklies, The Star and The GNN-Liberia Newspapers. He is a member of the Press Union Of Liberia (PUL) since 1986, and several other international organizations of journalists, and is currently contributing to the South Africa Broadcasting Corporation as Liberia Correspondent.