Cape Town – The first case of Ebola, since 1994, has been confirmed by the Ministry of Health of Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) on Sunday.
This came after the Institut Pasteur, in Côte d’Ivoire, confirmed that the Ebola Virus Disease was present in samples collected from a patient, who was hospitalised in the commercial capital of Abidjan, after arriving from Guinea.
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.
Initial investigations found that the patient had travelled to Côte 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 have passed on June 19 this year. There is no indication that the current case in Côte d’Ivoire is linked to the earlier outbreak in Guinea. Further investigation and genomic sequencing will identify the strain and determine if there is a connection between the two outbreaks.
“It is of immense concern that this outbreak has been declared in Abidjan, a metropolis of more than 4 million people,” said World Health Organization (WHO) regional director for Africa Dr Matshidiso Moeti.
“However, much of the world’s expertise in tackling Ebola is here on the continent, and Côte d’Ivoire can tap into this experience and bring the response to full speed. The country is one of the six countries that the WHO has supported recently to beef up their Ebola readiness, and this quick diagnosis shows preparedness is paying off,” said Moeti.
This year, Ebola outbreaks have 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.
WHO 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 Côte d’Ivoire, following an agreement between the ministries of health of Côte d’Ivoire and Guinea. An aircraft is departing from 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.
WHO staff, based in Côte d’Ivoire, are supporting the investigation into the case. In addition, a multi-disciplinary team of WHO experts, covering all key response areas, will be deployed rapidly to the field. 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.
Travel restrictions have not been advised. However, the WHO has advised that while countries are focused on the Covid-19 response, they should strengthen their preparedness for potential Ebola cases.