Ebola back in Africa: ‘Act quickly, before the virus spreads’


The Red Cross moves 700 rescuers in Guinea. Local aid workers will conduct the source and contact research for Ebola infections. “But they will also provide information about hygiene and clean drinking water, and help organize safe funerals,” says Naomi Nolte of the Red Cross.

Ebola is most contagious when a patient has died. Nolte: “So it is important that the victim is buried safely, in order to prevent further infections.”

Not the first time

In Congo, this is the fourth outbreak in less than three years. More than two thousand people were killed in the latest outbreak. Guinea had been Ebola-free for five years, the country suffered the largest Ebola outbreak ever in 2014. The virus then quickly spread to neighboring countries such as Sierra Leone and Liberia. In total, more than 11,000 people died in West Africa.

“That is still well engraved in Guinea. That is why they responded very quickly when they saw people with symptoms. The neighboring countries of Liberia and Sierra Leone have now also immediately jumped up and started monitoring at the border,” says van Gelder .

According to Nolte of the Red Cross, it is now also important to act quickly. “The countries already have a weak health care system. Half of the people in Guinea live below the poverty line, and then you have the corona virus. If you add Ebola to that, there are not only gigantic problems in health care, but also on an economic and social level “.

Gezondheidszorg: corona of my ebola

Healthcare in both countries is already under pressure from corona. According to Elles van Gelder, the countries are now better prepared, because of the experiences in the past, but also because they have more resources. “During the outbreak in West Africa in 2014, there was no vaccine yet, but now there is also medication. The virus is still dangerous, but in any case there are possibilities to treat patients and hopefully reduce the number of deaths. These are important steps forward. “

There is, however, a fear that there may not be enough Ebola vaccines available if the outbreaks become too large. Van Gelder: “Partly because pharmaceutical companies are now so focused on the production of the corona vaccine. They try to keep it as small as possible, but it is not an easy situation for hospitals that are already struggling with corona.”

Nolte also sees that the earlier Ebola outbreaks have provided the necessary experience. “This time we have to make sure that the virus does not spread widely, but we have to act very quickly.”

In Congo and Guinea they are now looking for patient zero: the person from whom the new outbreak originates. Van Gelder: “In Congo they check, among other things, whether the deceased woman got the virus from her husband. Research shows that the virus can persist in sperm cells for a long time. She could therefore have gotten it through sexual contact.”

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