WHO and Ministry of Health teams in Guinea and Liberia have established epidemiological links between new Ebola cases in Liberia and a current flare-up of Ebola in neighboring Guinea following intensified case investigations and contact tracing.
Investigation teams in Guinea had been searching for the wife and three young children of a man who died of Ebola last month in the southern prefecture of Macenta. The family members were considered high-risk contacts. It is now believed that the wife traveled to Liberia with her children after her husband’s death to join relatives who live in the capital, Monrovia. It is there that she reportedly developed symptoms. She initially sought care in local clinics and died en route to a Monrovia hospital on 31 March. Two of her sons, a five-year old and a two-year old, have since tested positive for Ebola and are being treated at an Ebola care facility in Monrovia.
Rapid response in Liberia
Liberian health authorities immediately reactivated the country’s emergency response mechanisms, and with support from WHO, CDC and other partners, set to work identifying, isolating and monitoring contacts of the confirmed cases, strengthening infection prevention and disease control measures and stepping up community outreach.
More than 100 contacts of the confirmed cases have been identified in Liberia and placed under voluntary medical observation. Affected households have been offered food, water, hygiene supplies and counselling. Preparations are underway for vaccination of contacts with the Ebola vaccine to prevent potential spread of the virus.
Liberian and Guinean authorities, with support from WHO, are organizing a meeting in the coming days to share information and more closely coordinate emergency response efforts and cross-border surveillance.
Vaccination of Ebola contacts in Guinea
A large-scale government-led response continues in Guinea’s prefectures of Nzérékoré and Macenta, where there have been 9 Ebola cases since the flare-up began in late February. Eight people have died and one 11-year old child remains in treatment in an Ebola care centre.
To date, over 1,400 people who may have been in contact with the confirmed cases and contacts of theirs have been vaccinated with the Ebola vaccine.
Ebola flare-ups anticipated
Tests 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 animal population.
WHO has stressed that flare-ups of Ebola like this one are likely to occur for some time, due to virus persistence in some survivors. WHO says Ebola-affected countries must remain ready to respond and maintain strong prevention, surveillance and survivor care programmes.