Following the recent outbreak of Ebola in West Africa, the European Commission is giving €500 000 to help contain the spread of the deadly virus in Guinea and neighboring countries. The Commission has also sent a health expert to Guinea to help assess the situation and liaise with the local authorities.
"We are deeply concerned about the spread of this virulent disease and our support will help ensure immediate health assistance to those affected by it," said Kristalina Georgieva, EU Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response. "It's vital that we act swiftly to prevent the outbreak from spreading, particularly to neighboring countries."
The funding will be used by the Commission's humanitarian partner organization Médecins Sans Frontières for clinical management, including the isolation of patients and psychosocial support, the tracing of suspected cases as well as the training and supply of personal protective equipment for health workers.
There will also be community-based awareness raising initiatives so as to help diminish the risk of the further spread of the virus.
The EU is following closely how the situation develops with its Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). It is also working with international partners, notably the World Health Organization (WHO), to track the outbreak.
This is the first Ebola virus outbreak registered in the West African region. To date, 103 suspected and confirmed cases and 66 deaths have been reported in Guinea, eight suspected cases in Liberia including six deaths, as well as six suspected cases in Sierra Leona including five deaths. Investigations on these are underway.
First discovered in DR Congo and Sudan in 1976, several outbreaks of this viral haemorrhagic fever have been reported in East and Central Africa, but not in West Africa.
Guinea is one of the least developed countries, periodically hit by epidemics such as meningitis, yellow fever and especially cholera. The European Commission has been involved in the fight against these outbreaks with interventions at the regional level. On 22 March, the Guinean Government revealed that Institute Pasteur in France had identified the Ebola filovirus in samples of cases initially associated with Lhassa fever.
Highly contagious, human to human transmission of Ebola occurs by simple contact with blood and body fluids. No vaccine or treatment is yet available for this pathogen, one of the world's most lethal with a case fatality rate of up to 90% depending on the strain.