WHO Raises Brows at Ivory Coast’s First Ebola Case in 25 Years

On 5 June 2018 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, UNICEF-supported social mobilizers address a group of children in central Mbandaka, the capital of Equateur Province. Since the start of the Ebola outbreak in the DRC, UNICEF and its partners have reached more than 300,000 people with lifesaving information about how to avoid contracting the deadline virus. Following the announcement by the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) on 8 May 2018 of a new Ebola outbreak in Equateur Province, UNICEF has mobilised its teams to help contain the spread of the disease. The outbreak was declared in the Bikoro Health Zone, located more than 100 kilometers south of the provincial capital of Mbandaka. A UNICEF team with two doctors, a specialist in water, sanitation and hygiene as well as a specialist in community communication left today from Mbandaka to assess the extent of the epidemic and begin implementing the response, alongside the Government and the World Health Organization (WHO). This is the ninth Ebola outbreak in the country since 1976. UNICEF supports the Government in its coordination of the response both from the country’s capital Kinshasa as well as in the affected area. UNICEF has been active in the Equateur Province for many years. Based on its experience in previous Ebola epidemics, UNICEF is focusing its response on communication activities in the communities to protect people from the disease and on water supply, hygiene and sanitation to prevent the spread of the disease. UNICEF has already sent a total of 45 kg of chlorine, five sprays, 50kg of soap and 28,000 water purification tablets to the area, as well as 600 posters and 6,000 leaflets to educate affected communities.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says Ivory Coast’s first recorded case of Ebola in more than 25 years is of “immense concern.”

Ivory Coast’s Ministry of Health had on Sunday confirmed that an 18-year-old girl had taken ill with the virus in Abidjan, the country’s commercial capital.

The teenager, who is being treated in hospital for the virus, had recently arrived from Guinea, which experienced a four-month long outbreak of Ebola earlier this year.

The WHO says further investigation is needed to identify the strain and determine if there is a connection between the two outbreaks

“It is of immense concern that this outbreak has been declared in Abidjan, a metropolis of more than four million people,” said Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO’s regional director for Africa.

Ivory Coast was one of six countries the WHO had supported recently to beef up Ebola readiness, he said.

Moeti also urged governments to improve their readiness for possible Ebola cases while focusing on COVID-19 response.

The patient, she said, arrived in Abidjan on August 12th, after traveling to Ivory Coast by vehicle.

“After developing a fever, the patient was admitted to the hospital and is currently undergoing treatment.

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“Guinea was hit by an Ebola outbreak that lasted four months and this was declared over on June 19, 2021. There is no evidence that the recent case in Ivory Coast is connected to the Guinea outbreak,” she said.

According to her, further investigations and genome sequencing will be used to identify the strain and determine if the two outbreaks are linked.

She said that in 2021 Ebola outbreaks had been declared in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Guinea, but this is the first time since the 2014-2016 West Africa Ebola outbreak that an outbreak had occurred in a large capital city like Abidjan.

“It is of enormous concern that an outbreak has been declared in Abidjan, a metropolis of more than 4 million people,” Moeti said.

“However, most of the world’s expertise in combating Ebola is right here on the continent and Ivory Coast may draw on this knowledge to speed up the response.

“The country is one of six that WHO recently aided in improving their Ebola preparedness, and this early diagnosis demonstrates that the preparation is paying off,’ she said

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Moeti said the organization was also helping to coordinate cross-border response activities to the Ebola outbreak and the 5000 Ebola vaccine doses that they helped secure in Guinea are now being transferred to Cote d’Ivoire following an agreement between their health ministries.

“A plane is leaving Abidjan soon to gather vaccines that will be used to vaccinate those who are at high risk, including health workers, first responders and people who have been in contact with proven cases.

“WHO staff in Ivory Coast are assisting with the case inquiry. A multidisciplinary team of WHO experts will also be quickly sent to the field, covering all key response areas,” she said.

Furthermore, Moeti added that the organization will help improve infection prevention and control at healthcare institutions, diagnostics, contact tracing, treatment, and outreach to communities, so they can play an important role in the response.

According to her, Ivory Coast disclosed the epidemic in accordance with international health regulations and the organisation does not recommend any limitations on travel to or from the country.

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“While governments focus on COVID-19, they should strengthen their preparedness for any Ebola cases,” she said.

Moeti noted that while Ivory Coast borders Guinea and Liberia, both of which were hit severely by the West Africa Ebola outbreak in 2014–2016, the country has had no confirmed cases since 1994.

“Ebola is a deadly disease that affects humans and other primates. In previous outbreaks, case mortality rates have ranged from 25 per cent to 90 per cent.

“There is now good treatment available and patients’ chances of survival improve dramatically if they receive treatment and supportive care early,” she said.

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