Story at a glance

  • Multiple African countries have been placed on alert as new Ebola cases continue to emerge.
  • Guinea has declared the virus resurgence an outbreak.

The World Health Organization (WHO) issued a formal warning to multiple countries in Africa to ready themselves for the possible emergence of new Ebola cases as the virus resurges in different parts of the continent, according to Reuters.

Following a confirmed case of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), health authorities in Guinea declared an outbreak on Sunday as now 10 suspected cases have emerged along with five deaths. 

As the world still fights the spread of COVID-19, a coinciding outbreak of the contagious and deadly Ebola virus could cripple the global health apparatus and make responding and treating both viruses extremely difficult. 

“We have already alerted the six countries around, including of course Sierra Leone and Liberia, and they are moving very fast to prepare and be ready and to look for any potential infection,” the WHO’s Margaret Harris said on Tuesday.

WHO officials also confirmed that genetic sequencing of both strains from Guinea and the DRC are being analyzed to learn more about the current situation.

Where this round of Ebola came from, however, remains a mystery.

“As for the infection, we’re not yet able to identify its origin,” said provincial health minister Eugene Nzanzu Salita.

The recent serious Ebola outbreak occurred in West Africa, beginning in southeastern Guinea, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Lasting from 2014-16, more than 28,000 cases were reported between Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, resulting in more than 11,000 fatalities.

Dubbed the West African Epidemic, it was the largest Ebola outbreak in history.

Given its relatively large presence, pharmaceutical companies have been working on developing various drugs and vaccines for Ebola. An injectable single-dose vaccine created by Merck, Sharp & Dohme (MSD) was approved by the European Medicines Agency in November 2019 and primarily used during the 2018-20 Ebola outbreaks in the DRC.

In January 2021, four leading global health organizations, including the WHO, the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, announced the establishment of an Ebola vaccine stockpile to guarantee a prepared response to a future outbreak.

With this stockpile in place, experts hope that it can wrangle Ebola outbreaks under control in a short period of time. 

“We are proud to be part of this unprecedented effort to help bring potential Ebola outbreaks quickly under control,” said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore. “We know that when it comes to disease outbreaks, preparedness is key. This Ebola vaccine stockpile is a remarkable achievement - one that will allow us to deliver vaccines to those who need them the most as quickly as possible.”

Ebola is spread through the exposure of infected bodily fluids, including vomit, feces, sweat or semen. Symptoms include a fever, headache, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain and abnormal bleeding, and it carries a high fatality rate. 

Published on Feb 16, 2021