After two weeks of quiet with no new cases across West Africa, the battle with Ebola proved to be far from over with two new recorded infections in Guinea.
This development reported by World Health Organization (WHO) ended Guinea’s chance to join Liberia in being Ebola-free. Sierra Leone is still going through the 42-day period needed to be declared free of the virus that spanned almost two years and killed over 11,000 individuals out of 28,500 cases.
Guinea authorities pinpointed one of the cases as occurring in Forecariah, western Guinea, and appearing to be associated with a previously established chain of infection. The other case is in Conakry, deemed as a new infection.
According to a representative from the country’s anti-Ebola taskforce, the patient in Forecariah was released Friday, Oct. 16 after treatment, while another was admitted to the capital’s Nongo treatment center. The 21-year-old was not among those who had contact with any Ebola victim registered previously.
WHO spokesperson Margaret Harris, in a briefing in Geneva, said the organization “did expect” the recurrence of Ebola, as Guinea had not reached the stage where they were looking at 42 days – the period of time when no new cases of Ebola transmission should occur in a locality.
“[O]nce again we are navigating a few bumps,” she said.
What these new cases could mean is the Ebola epidemic – which started when a two-year-old contracted the disease in a remote village in Guinea on Dec. 26, 2013 – is entering a third year and continuing on to 2016.
Holding promise for current Ebola treatment is a successful trial vaccine now employed to address every new case as well as their at-risk contacts. However, Harris said that the trial ends in the middle of November – there has not been any word on the continued use of the vaccine from there.
Experts warned that vaccine development takes time and needs to be economically viable. Even when there is “an expedited review process,” an Ebola vaccine is unlikely to be available before mid-2017 or two years once aggressive research into the illness has started.
Photo: CDC Global | Flickr