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Cote d’Ivoire declares first Ebola outbreak in over 25 years

The Ministry of Health of Cote d’Ivoire on Sunday, August 15, 2021 confirmed the country’s first case of Ebola since 1994. This came after the Institut Pasteur in Cote d’Ivoire confirmed the Ebola Virus Disease in samples collected from a patient, who was hospitalised in the commercial capital of Abidjan, after arriving from Guinea.

Matshidiso Moeti
Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa

Initial investigations found that the patient had travelled to Cote d’Ivoire by road and arrived in Abidjan on August 12. The patient was admitted to a hospital after experiencing a fever and is currently receiving treatment.

Guinea experienced a four-month long Ebola outbreak, which was declared over on the June 19, 2021. There is no indication that the current case in Cote d’Ivoire is linked to the earlier outbreak in Guinea, according to the World health Organisation (WHO), adding that further investigation and genomic sequencing would identify the strain and determine if there is a connection between the two outbreaks.

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Ebola outbreaks have this year been declared in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Guinea, but it is the first time an outbreak has occurred in a large capital city such as Abidjan since the 2014–2016 West Ebola outbreak.

“It is of immense concern that this outbreak has been declared in Abidjan, a metropolis of more than 4 million people,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. “However, much of the world’s expertise in tackling Ebola is here on the continent and Cote d’Ivoire can tap into this experience and bring the response to full speed. The country is one of the six that WHO has supported recently to beef up their Ebola readiness and this quick diagnosis shows preparedness is paying off.”

WHO said in a statement that it is helping to coordinate cross-border Ebola response activities and 5,000 Ebola vaccines doses which the organisation helped secure to fight the outbreak in Guinea are now being transferred to Cote d’Ivoire, following an agreement between the ministries of health of Cote d’Ivoire and Guinea. An aircraft is departing Abidjan soon to collect the vaccines which will be used to vaccinate people at high risk, including health workers, first responders and contacts of confirmed cases, disclosed the UN body.

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WHO staff based in Cote d’Ivoire are said to be supporting the investigation into the case, even as a multidisciplinary team of WHO experts covering all key response areas will be deployed rapidly to the field. It was gathered that they will help with ramping up infection prevention and control of health facilities, diagnostics, contact tracing, treatment and reaching out to communities to ensure they take a key role in the response. 

WHO stated: “Cote d’Ivoire declared the outbreak in line with International Health Regulations and WHO does not advise any travel restrictions to and from the country.

“While countries are focused on the COVID-19 response, they should strengthen their preparedness for potential Ebola cases.

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“While Cote d’Ivoire borders Guinea and Liberia which were struck hard by the 2014–2016 West Africa Ebola outbreak, the country has had no confirmed cases reported since 1994, when an outbreak among chimpanzees infected a scientist.

“Ebola is a severe, often fatal illness affecting humans and other primates. Case fatality rates have varied from 25% to 90% in past outbreaks. There is now effective treatment available and if patients receive treatment early, as well as supportive care, their chances of survival improve significantly.”

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