As Ebola reappears in Guinea, measures to try to contain the deadly virus are encountering resistance from the populations, warned a Red Cross official in an interview with AFP.
“What we are seeing on the ground is a lot of resistance within the communities and also religious reluctance,” explained Emanuele Capobianco, Director of Health and Care within the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Cross Societies. Red Crescent (IFRC), Friday.
This is not surprising for the doctor: “Ebola is a disease which scares people. It is a terrible disease which kills a lot”.
In fact, the virus is transmitted through bodily fluids and the death rate is high, usually around 50%.
The reappearance of the disease in Guinea, following deaths at the end of January, was noted in mid-February and since then, the authorities and international actors have mobilized strongly to stop possible contagions, isolate and treat the sick and launch a campaign. vaccination.
So far, 18 cases have been reported. Fourteen cases are confirmed including 4 people who have died, according to the latest figures from the World Health Organization (WHO) on Friday.
“The return of this disease naturally creates a lot of anxiety,” says Dr. Capobianco.
“There is a lot of trauma”, which according to him “translates into disputes”.
The worst Ebola outbreak – a virus first identified in 1976 in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) – started in December 2013 from forest Guinea, before spreading to neighboring Liberia and Sierra Leone.
It ended in 2016 after having killed more than 11,300 for some 28,600 recorded cases, more than 99% in these three countries – out of ten affected, including Spain and the United States – a toll probably undervalued , according to the WHO.
During this first Ebola epidemic recorded in West Africa, local populations sometimes revolted against the intrusion of foreigners in protective suits.
These reactions culminated in the September 2014 massacre of eight members of an awareness-raising team in Womey, Forest Guinea.
– Safer funeral ceremonies –
The IFRC, which is very involved in many aspects of the fight against the disease in Guinea, has notably contributed to developing a safer approach to funeral ceremonies, respecting traditions as much as possible.
This dimension is crucial because people who have just died are the most contagious, which makes traditional funeral practices, such as washing the body, very dangerous.
In Guinea, for example, several people were infected during the funeral of a 51-year-old nurse, the first known case of this new epidemic.
Dr Capobianco underlines that the IFRC had already had to overcome strong resistance to introduce its new funeral practices during the previous epidemic.
These burials “have a huge impact in terms of reducing transmission,” he explains, adding: “We weren’t always able to do it because the community simply refused to let the Cross teams. Red proceed to the funeral “.
But “it is a problem that can be solved,” he insists, “by listening to communities, reflecting on their fears, explaining what the disease is and showing that having Ebola is not synonymous with a death sentence, ”he said.
The battle against Ebola is less unbalanced today, thanks to vaccines and drugs that did not exist during the 2013-2016 epidemic and are lowering mortality.
More than 1,600 people, including contact cases and healthcare workers have already been immunized, according to the WHO.
The first IFRC employee was vaccinated on Friday, says Dr Capobianco.
“This time around we can deploy very powerful tools,” he says and “as long as we can convince the communities and involve them in the fight (against the epidemic) we should be able to stay in control” .