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Earlier this week, Guinea, a country located in West Africa, reported new cases of Ebola, a rare and deadly infection. Beyond Guinea, reports Reuters, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) also reported infections. While the DRC asserts that these infections are a result of a prior outbreak, the World Health Organization (WHO) has informed six countries – Liberia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, and the Ivory Coast – to be aware of the possible spread.
In 2013, Guinea experienced a severe ebola outbreak which lasted for three years. During this time, over 11 thousand people died. The most recent deaths within Guinea are the first caused by Ebola, then, since 2016. As of the morning of February 16, 2021, five people have died so far. However, an estimated 10 cases have occurred. Because of this, the WHO and other health leaders are attempting to quell the spread quickly to avoid another epidemic.
Unfortunately, neither the WHO or local health ministers are able to determine the origin of the virus. In the interim, they will attempt to treat patients in need. However, the WHO is working to perform genetic sequencing to determine what strains are spreading and where these outbreaks might have originated.
This potential resurgence of ebola has emerged at a terrifying time. Considering many African regions lack funding for their healthcare systems, and are currently battling COVID-19, the reemergence of ebola could be devastating. There are over 109 million cases of COVID-19 worldwide, with 14,967 reported in Guinea. Currently, to stop the spread of both the coronavirus and ebola, many West African nations will be enforcing border controls and other measures.
Also called Ebola Virus Disease (EVD), ebola is caused by ebolavirus infection, which many researchers believe is animal-borne (or started in animals). Because of this, the disease can be spread between, or by, both humans and animals. Ebola is spread through contact with someone infected, whether through blood, tissue, or other bodily fluid. The infection may also be spread through sexual contact. Typically, symptoms appear within 8 to 10 days of infection, although it can be anywhere between 2 and 21 days. Now that a vaccine has been more widely used, ebola infections have gone down.
Symptoms progress from dry to wet. This means that patients may initially experience:
- Muscle pain and weakness
- Stomach pain
- Red eyes
However, as the condition progresses, patients will begin to experience “wet” symptoms, such as:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Unexplained bruising and bleeding
Without treatment, this condition is fatal.
Learn more about ebola here.