Africa’s biggest Ebola outbreak in seven years threatens to spread from Guinea to neighboring Sierra Leone and Liberia, the United Nations said.
Suspected cases of the lethal hemorrhagic disease are being investigated in southeast border areas, the World Health Organization said yesterday. At least 80 cases and 59 deaths have been recorded across the West African country, the United Nations Children’s Fund said on March 22. The capital, Conakry hasn’t been affected, government spokesman Albert Damantang Camara said today, after Unicef said the outbreak had spread there.
“The forest region where Unicef delivered the emergency assistance on Saturday is located along the border with Sierra Leone and Liberia with many people doing business and moving between the three countries,” said Laurent Duvillier, a Unicef spokesman, in an e-mail today. “Risk of international spread should be taken seriously.”
Unicef plans to dispatch 5 metric tons of aid, including medical supplies, to the worst-affected areas.
“The three cases, which were registered in Conakry have no link with Ebola,” Camara said. “The analyses were made abroad. The outbreak of the disease may be heavier than 59 but the Health Ministry will release a statement on the disease soon.
The Geneva-based WHO hasn’t previously recorded any outbreaks of Ebola in Guinea, the world’s biggest exporter of bauxite, which is the ore used to make aluminum. At least eight health-care workers who were in contact with infected patients have died, hindering the response and threatening normal care in a country already lacking in medical personnel, Unicef said.
‘‘This outbreak is particularly devastating because medical staff are among the first victims,” New York-based Unicef said. There is no specific treatment or vaccine for Ebola.
Supplies delivered over the weekend are being distributed to health-care workers, said Timothy La Rose, a Unicef spokesman, in an e-mail today.
“We are focusing on prevention,” La Rose said. “We are alerting the public on how to avoid contracting Ebola. Since there is no treatment, this is the best way to stop the spread.”
The Ebola virus is transmitted through contact with blood or bodily fluids of an infected person or wild animal, according to the WHO. It was first identified in 1976 in Congo and Sudan, when two different strains of the virus killed 431 of the 602 people infected.
The last known Ebola outbreak occurred in Uganda in 2011, killing one person. An epidemic there in 2007 infected 149 people, killing 37, according to the WHO.
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