Over the past few weeks, you have been inundated with reports on invasions and missing planes. So, why not add an outbreak of hemorrhagic fever to the mix? Many pieces have been published on Guinea’s first Ebola outbreak. The Disease Daily will continue to synthesize some of these reports to keep our readers updated. For near real-time updates from news published on this outbreak, make sure to visit HealthMap’s Ebola map.
The latest update (March 26 2014) from the World Health Organization’s Epidemic & Pandemic Alert and Response states that there are 86 suspected cases of Ebola and 62 deaths. These case and death counts would make the case fatality rate, which is the number of people with an illness or condition who die from that illness or condition, about 72 percent. The CDC reports that this virus is most closely related to the Zaire virus, a particularly lethal subspecies of Ebola, which was last reported in 2009. The first recorded outbreak of Ebola was caused by the Zaire species in 1976, in what is today the Democratic Republic of Congo. Since 1976, over half of the outbreaks and cases identified have been caused by the Zaire subspecies. To learn more about historical Ebola outbreaks, check out the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s distribution maps and chronologies of past Ebola outbreaks.
According to the CDC, thirteen samples have been confirmed by laboratory diagnosis in Lyon, France, Dakar, Senegal, and Hamburg, Germany.
Health officials reported to the BBC that lab tests for the suspected Ebola cases Guinea’s capital, Conakry, came back negative. Another suspected case that tested negative for Ebola was the case in Saskatoon, Canada. The man suspected of being infected with Ebola had recently returned to Canada from Liberia before falling ill. According to Canada’s The StarPhoenix, Lassa, Ebola, Marburg and Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fevers have been ruled out. Other illnesses that health care workers are considering include: malaria, dengue, typhoid and meningitis. The suspected Ebola cases in Sierra Leone and Liberia are being investigated.
In response to the outbreak, several measures are being taken. As previously reported, the government and Doctors Without Borders (MSF) are working together to set up and support isolation units in Guinea. According to the WHO, mobile laboratory teams are being deployed from Senegal, France, Italy, and Germany to increase diagnostic capacity. According to the BBC, Guinea has reportedly prohibited the consumption and sale of bats as a method of preventing spread of the virus. Some suspect that bats are the natural host for Ebola.
Cote D’Ivoire is taking somewhat similar measures: Its National Institute of Public Hygiene is reportedly recommending that people refrain from hunting and coming into close contact with animals. New Vision reports that Uganda, the country most recently affected by Ebola, is increasing border and airport surveillance.
Reuters published an informative interview with Peter Piot, currently the Director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and formerly the Executive Director of UNAIDS and co-discoverer of Ebola, who explained his frustration with the virus. According to Piot, we see the same patterns with every outbreak of Ebola. The outbreak begins in the forests and is spread in health care settings, households, and funerals. It seems like Piot’s frustration stems from the following facts: Ebola is not hard to contain (hygiene and isolation), but often times the infrastructure to support hygiene and isolation is not available; and the elusive host for this fever remains unknown. For more on Peter Piot’s history with the virus, read the full interview.
*correction 3/28/2014: Previously, this post stated "The latest reports from the CDC and the WHO confirm that lab tests for the suspected Ebola cases Guinea’s capital, Conakry, came back negative." This was revised to: "Health officials reported to the BBC that lab tests for the suspected Ebola cases Guinea’s capital, Conakry, came back negative."