Guinea battles to contain Ebola as Senegal closes its border

Guinea keeps up its efforts to contain an Ebola epidemic, which has killed dozens, as neighboring Senegal closed its border.

CONAKRY, Guinea – Guinea kept up its efforts on Saturday, March 29, to contain an Ebola epidemic which has killed dozens spreading from its southern forests to the capital Conakry, as neighboring Senegal closed its border.

Responding to the deadly outbreak, the Senegalese interior ministry said Saturday it was closing border crossings to Guinea “until further notice”.

The order affects crossings at Kolda and Kedougou in the south of Senegal which are heavily used by traders, particularly during a weekly market attended by thousands from neighbouring countries.

8 cases of Ebola have been confirmed in Conakry, the Guinean health ministry said late Friday, including one fatality.

“The total number of suspected cases recorded from January to March 28, 2014 is 111 cases of hemorrhagic fever including 70 deaths or a fatality rate of 63%,” the ministry said in a statement.

All those infected have been put into isolation at the capital’s biggest hospital to prevent the highly contagious virus from getting into the population.

Aid organizations have sent dozens of workers to help the poor west African country combat the outbreak of hemorrhagic fever.

On Friday, the European Union announced aid of 500,000 euros “to help to contain the propagation of the virus, which can kill up to 90% of affected people, in Guinea and neighbouring countries,” the Dakar office of the EU’s humanitarian arm, ECHO, said on Friday.

The EU funds will be used by health charity Doctors Without Borders (Medecins sans Frontieres, MSF) “for clinical management, including isolation of the sick and psychological support, research into suspected cases as well as training and the supply of personal protective equipment for health personnel.”

‘Deeply concerned’ 

The EU aid came after a plea for assistance from the Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS). The regional bloc said it was “deeply concerned” about the epidemic which presented a “serious threat to the region”.

Most of the cases were recorded in southern Guinea, but the disease has spread to the capital since Wednesday.

Guinea is one of the world’s poorest nations despite vast untapped mineral wealth, with a stagnating economy, youth unemployment at 60% and a rank of 178th out of 187 countries on the UN’s Human Development Index.

The World Health Organization said Liberia had reported 8 suspected cases of Ebola fever, including 6 deaths, while Sierra Leone had reported 6 suspected cases, 5 of them fatal.

Ebola can be transmitted to humans from wild animals, and between humans through direct contact with another’s blood, feces or sweat, as well as sexual contact or the unprotected handling of contaminated corpses.

MSF said the spread of the disease was being exacerbated by people travelling to funerals in which mourners touch the bodies of the dead.

Guinea has banned the consumption of bat soup, a popular delicacy in the country, as the fruit bat is believed to be the host species.

No treatment or vaccine is available, and the Zaire strain detected in Guinea – first observed 38 years ago in what is today called the Democratic Republic of Congo – has a 90% death rate. – Rappler.com

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