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As Ebola spreads to the nation’s capital, Médecins Sans Frontières warns about the 'unprecedented' nature of the Guinea outbreak

With eight confirmed cases of Ebola reported in the Guinea capital, Conakry, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) says that the country is 'facing an unprecedented epidemic in terms of the distribution of cases.'

“We are facing an epidemic of a magnitude never before seen in terms of the distribution of cases in the country: Gueckedou, Macenta Kissidougou, Nzerekore, and now Conakry,” said Mariano Lugli, coordinator of MSF's project in Conakry.

To date, Guinean health authorities have recorded 122 suspected patients and 78 deaths. Other cases, suspected or diagnosed, were found in Sierra Leone and Liberia.

MSF continues to strengthen its teams on the ground in Guinea. By the end of the week, there will be around 60 international fieldworkers who have experience in working on haemorrhagic fever. The group will be divided between Conakry and the other locations in the south-east of the country.

Among the fieldworkers are doctors, nurses, epidemiologists, water and sanitation experts, as well as anthropologists. In addition, more than 40 tonnes of equipment has been flown into the country to enable MSF teams to curb the spread of the disease.

“MSF has intervened in almost all reported Ebola outbreaks in recent years, but these outbreaks much more geographically contained and involved more remote locations, as opposed to urban areas. The vast geographic spread of the Guinea outbreak is worrisome because it will greatly complicate the tasks of the organisations working to control the epidemic,” said Lugli.

This is the most aggressive and deadly known form of the virus. It kills more than nine out of 10 patients

In Conakry, MSF has strengthened the support for the isolation of patients located at the referral hospital of Donka, in collaboration with the Guinean health authorities and the World Health Organization (WHO).

Currently, several patients in other health structures are still hospitalised under non-optimal conditions and it is imperative that isolation be improved and reinforced in the coming days.

The teams are also looking for a suitable place to set up a new facility to further support local health authorities. At the same time, MSF has already begun to identify people who may have been in contact with confirmed Ebola patients.

The search and screening of potential new patients, and if necessary, their isolation is the only way to break the chain of transmission of the virus. There is currently no vaccine against or established successful treatment for Ebola.

“In the Guinea outbreak it is the Zaire strain of Ebola virus. This is the most aggressive and deadly known form of the virus. It kills more than nine out of 10 patients,” said Michel Van Herp, an MSF epidemiologist currently in Guekedou.

“To stop the outbreak, it is important to trace the chain of transmission. All contacts of patients likely to have been contaminated should be monitored and isolated at the first sign of infection.”

“It is important that the Guinean authorities and the WHO help medical facilities put in place all necessary hygiene measures,” said Van Herp.

•Date: 1st April 2014 • Africa •Type: Article • Topic: Pandemic planning

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