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Guinea tracks potential Ebola contacts to overcome new outbreak

CONAKRY: Guinea is tracking down people who potentially had contact with Ebola patients and will rush vaccines to the affected area as soon as possible after at least three deaths from the disease.

Health Minister Remy Lamah said that unlike during the deadliest known outbreak, which tore through West Africa in 2013-2016, Guinea had the means to halt the resurgence of the virus. The Ebola virus causes severe bleeding and organ failure and is spread through contact with body fluids.

“In 2013, it took us months to understand that we were dealing with an Ebola epidemic, while this time, in less than four days, we were able to do analysis and have the results. Our medical teams are trained and seasoned. We have the means to quickly overcome this disease,” said Lamah.

The World Health Organization (WHO) warned the outbreaks in Guinea and Congo represented a regional risk. The WHO representative in Guinea, Georges Ki-Zerbo, said he has requested authorisation to obtain as many vaccines doses as possible.

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He added that there were some constraints in getting the vaccines to Guinea quickly, but authorities were working on the issues so that the vaccines could be available by next week for a targeted vaccination campaign.

International organisations including the International Committee of the Red Cross, Medecins Sans Frontieres and medical charity ALIMA said they were sending rapid response teams to the region to assist.

The 2013-2016 outbreak killed 11,300 people, mostly in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. The second-deadliest known outbreak was declared over last year in Democratic Republic of Congo but saw resurgence this month.

An Ebola vaccination campaign started in eastern Congo on Monday. Neighbouring Sierra Leone has sent workers to watch border entry points in coordination with Guinea authorities, a health ministry spokesman said.

The outbreak started after the funeral of a nurse who was buried in southeast Guinea on February 1. She is thought to have had Ebola and seven people who attended her funeral have tested positive for Ebola, with three dying, authorities said.