25 March 2014

Africa: Red Cross Mobilizes Teams to Respond to Ebola Outbreak in Guinea

press release

25 March 2014: Conakry/Dakar: With a confirmed outbreak of the highly contagious Ebola virus in Guinea, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has today deployed a Field Assessment Coordination Team (FACT) to the west African country to assist in the response.

"This team includes an infectious disease specialist from the French Red Cross Society, as well as a psychosocial support delegate. Together they will assess the situation on the ground and help inform a comprehensive response plan," said Dr Adinoyi Ben Adeiza, IFRC health coordinator in Africa. "It is imperative that we work quickly with our partners to ensure this virus does not spread any further."

Volunteers with the Red Cross Society of Guinea are already involved in the collection and removal of dead bodies. A further 100 volunteers are being mobilized to work in the affected regions to step up emergency communication, contain rumours and raise awareness among communities on how to prevent the spread of the virus.

"We are dealing with a particularly virulent strain of the Ebola virus, where the fatality rate is upwards of 80 per cent," said Dr Facely Diawara, who oversees health operations at the Red Cross Society of Guinea. "We are training additional staff and volunteers and will deploy them once they are fully aware of how to protect themselves from contracting the disease. We will also ensure they have access to adequate protective equipment, such as gloves, masks and goggles."

On 21 March, the Government of Guinea declared an outbreak of Ebola in the areas of Guéckédou, Kissidougou and Macenta - the first documented outbreak in the country. To date there are six lab confirmed cases, 86 suspected cases and 60 fatalities, for a 69 per cent fatality rate. There are potential cases in neighbouring Sierra Leone and Liberia. Symptoms are very similar to measles and cholera, which are both currently problematic in Guinea, making it challenging to identify and confirm Ebola cases.

"With our team of volunteers across the country, the Red Cross can play a pivotal role in trying to stem the fear and stigma which can rise very quickly during such an outbreak," says Dr Facely. "Panic is our worst enemy. Communities need to be informed, and we can talk to them and alleviate fears of not containing the outbreak."

Ebola is highly infectious and can spread quickly through contact with infected persons or animals. There is no cure or vaccine, however, the virus can be prevented from spreading by ensuring those caring for infected persons are properly protected with gloves, masks and goggles. Symptoms include severe fever, extreme weakness, headaches, diarrhoea and vomiting. Internal and external bleeding can also occur.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is the world's largest volunteer-based humanitarian network, reaching 150 million people each year through its 189 member National Societies. Together, IFRC acts before, during and after disasters and health emergencies to meet the needs and improve the lives of vulnerable people. It does so with impartiality as to nationality, race, gender, religious beliefs, class and political opinions.

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