The mystery illness in southeastern Guinea which has been identified in a number of cases as Ebola may be the deadly Zaire strain. The Zaire virus, also known as ZEBOV, was the first Ebola virus discovered and also the one with the highest mortality rate – up to 90 percent. Ebola is generally transmitted through bodily fluids. Recently, a Saskatchewan man was hospitalized after a visit to West Africa. He was suspected of having the virus but lab testing has come back negative. The Canadian patient does not have Ebola.
While the patient was hospitalized and showing symptoms of hemorrhagic fever, Cailin Rodgers, spokeswoman for the federal health minister, states that tests have confirmed that he does not have the deadly virus. Although the man remains hospitalized and seriously ill, according to the deputy chief medical health officer, Dr. Denise Werker, there are a number of exotic diseases that fall under the category of viral hemorrhagic fever. While the hemorrhagic fever may have been caused by Ebola, it may also have been caused by a number of other fevers in the same category. Yellow fever, Lassa fever, Marburg hemorrhagic fever, and Crimean-Congo fever are all diseases that may also be classified as a viral hemorrhagic fever.
The World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed the negative results via twitter. The lab specimens from the hospitalized man were tested at a laboratory in Winnipeg, Canada. The lab is designated a biosafety level 4 (BSL-4) lab. BSL-4 laboratories are where diseases with no known vaccines or cures are studied. The highest and most stringent safety methods are used in BSL-4 labs. The testing from the Winnipeg lab confirms that the Canadian patient does not have the Ebola virus.
While the Canadian man has tested negative for Ebola, Sierra Leone is investigating two of its own suspected cases. As Guinea struggles to confirm and contain additional cases of the virus, neighbor Sierra Leone has not yet confirmed or denied the cases under their investigation. Brima Kargbo, chief medical officer, has reported that blood samples have been taken and health teams are investigating. Karbo added that although this marks the first time that they have had to deal with such a threat to national health, they are both on alert and prepared in case the cases areconfirmed as Ebola.
Ebola outbreaks have traditionally been restricted to Africa with several exceptions that did not result in human deaths or infections. Most notably and possibly the most reported non-African outbreak was the Reston virus which occurred in the United States in 1989 in Reston, Virginia. While the Reston virus was categorized as a level-4 organism, it was only hazardous to the laboratory’s cynomolgus monkeys. When a worker handling the animals was cut while performing an autopsy on an infected monkey, he was placed under surveillance but did not become ill.
The Zaire strain is what is believed to be currently running its course in Guinea although tests are still underway to determine the actual number of Ebola patients and victims. Sierra Leone is investigating two individual cases to determine if they are Ebola or if they are another disease. In the meantime, both the hospital in which the Canadian patient continues to be treated and the World Health Organization have confirmed that the man does not have Ebola. Containment efforts continue and more updates from both Sierra Leone and WHO are expected.
By Dee Mueller