Voice of America (Washington, DC)

4 June 2014

Guinea: Doctors Without Borders Worried About Spread of Ebola Outbreak

Photo: FICR
The Red Cross responds to the Ebola outbreak in neighboring Guinea.

The ongoing Ebola outbreak is "resurging" in Guinea, where the virus has killed about 200 people since it appeared in February, and in neighboring Sierra Leone, said Doctors Without Borders on Wednesday.

Health workers appeared to be making progress against the outbreak, but Guinea and Sierra Leone are now reporting fresh cases, some in areas previously unaffected by the disease, said the doctors group, known by its French acronym, MSF.

MSF said it has seen more than 20 new cases of Ebola at its treatment centers in Guinea in the past week.

MSF said areas like the capital, Conakry, and the towns of Gueckedou and Macenta, near the border with Liberia, have seen a spike in the number of new patients.

But Ebola is also cropping up in previously unaffected towns, such as Telimele, north of the capital, and the coastal town of Boffa.

Between May 29 and June 1, at least 21 people died and 37 new cases of suspected Ebola were recorded in Guinea, the World Health Organization said, undermining the government's claims that the disease was coming under control, Reuters reported on Wednesday.

The new figures take to 328 the number of cases linked to the disease in the West African country, of which 193 have been confirmed by laboratory tests. In total, 208 deaths have been linked to Ebola, making the outbreak one of the deadliest in recent years, according to WHO, as reported by Reuters.

Spread of disease

Bart Janssens, director of operations for MSF, said the geographical spread of the disease in Guinea is a problem.

"It clearly indicates that the epidemic is not at all under control as we might have hoped one or two weeks ago, when we really saw cases continually going down over time," Janssens said.

He said people should seek treatment as soon as they show symptoms or if they believe they have been exposed.

The Ebola virus is spread through direct contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person, and the virus can be transmitted even after that person dies. Health workers said families moving bodies for funerals have been a factor in the spread of the disease.

It can take up to three weeks for symptoms, including fever, vomiting, body aches and uncontrollable bleeding, to appear. There is no cure.

Health workers try to isolate suspected cases.

Fatality rate

Janssens said some people do recover with medical care.

"People are afraid to come out. It's difficult to identify all cases and also to track the contact of these cases," he said.

"These people travel to new sites either because they do not know they are sick or because they want to get away from places where they can be identified."

The ongoing outbreak in West Africa has had a fatality rate of about 70 percent.

Those who have survived, as well as relatives of those who have died, reported being stigmatized by their communities.

Border areas

The outbreak spread into border areas of Liberia and Sierra Leone in April.

Liberia has not reported any new cases in a month.

That is not the case for Sierra Leone, which recorded three confirmed and 10 suspected new cases of Ebola in the May 29 - June 1 period, WHO reported, according to Reuters.

MSF said it is setting up a new clinic in Koindu, Sierra Leone, near the border with Guinea.

One person confirmed to have Ebola and three others suspected of having the disease died in Koindu this week. Sierra Leone's health ministry had reported 18 possible new cases there at the end of May.

Some information for this report provided by Reuters.

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