Sunday, April 06, 2014

Ebola: the facts so far...

It is public news that Ebola has reached West Africa for the first time in history. Both Guinea and Liberia have confirmed cases. Sierra Leone has no confirmed cases. Some facts that might be of interest especially related to Sierra Leone are as follows:

  • 15 March: Sierra Leone Ministry was alerted by Guinean health authorities about an unknown outbreak leading to deaths.
  • 19 March: WHO confirmed cases in Guinea were hemorrhagic fever.
  • 22 March: WHO confirmed cases in Guinea were Ebola - Zaire strain.
  • The National Ebola Task Force in Sierra Leone was engaged and four groups meet regularly.
  • There has been increased surveillance, especially near the border.
  • There are no confirmed cases in Sierra Leone as of the 5th of April.
  • There were two Sierra Leoneans in one family that died in Guinea and were probably cases of Ebola and their bodies were repatriated to Sierra Leone (1 1/2 miles across the border). The contacts of said Sierra Leonean family have been traced and tested throughout the incubation period (21 days) and are all negative. 
  • Sierra Leone may be better prepared due to our ongoing surveillance for Lassa Fever (a different hemorrhagic fever endemic in Sierra Leone) and due to our state of the art Lassa Fever unit in Kenema who can perform Ebola testing.
  • Each district has designated surveillance officers that can be called upon at any time.
  • Isolation areas will be/are set up in health facilities as a precautionary measure.
  • In the current case definition the key point is travel history to Guinea or Liberia or contact with someone from their with history of febrile illness.
  • During the 2-21 day incubation period a person is NOT infectious (contagious). It is when someone starts having symptoms that transmission of the virus starts, usually when they are very ill and need support in coming to the hospital. Transmission of disease is highest in very late stage of disease (hemorrhagic state) and when dealing with a corpse.

(sources: Ministry of Health and Sanitation, WHO)

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