Samples from victims of a disease outbreak that has killed 59 people in the West African nation of Guinea do contain the Ebola virus. The announcement from Guinea officials came Sunday morning and marked the first outbreak of Ebola in that nation.
The virus was found in tests conducted in a Lyons, France laboratory. Experts in Guinea had not been able to work out what was causing diarrhea, fever, and vomiting in victims and sent their samples to France.
The outbreak was first detected last month.
According to a Guinea Health Ministry statement published on Saturday there have been 80 cases of Ebola and 59 deaths reported, including three children. Most of the cases have been in southern prefectures, near Liberia and Sierra Leone.
Guinea Health Minister Remy Lamah said on Saturday that test results revealed the patients were suffering from a disease connected to a group of viruses that affect numerous bodily organs. The lab in France had to run tests in order to confirm that Ebola was responsible.
Ebola kills between 25 and 90 percent of victims depending on the strain. No vaccine or treatment is available. The strain involved in this outbreak has not been identified.
While there is no cure now, a 2012 paper in the journal Nature reported on a cocktail of three antibiotics that worked on monkeys, if the drugs are administered within 24 hours.
A team included the Health Minister and personnel from Doctors Without Borders are working to contain the outbreak. Doctors Without Borders has set up an isolation unit in the town of Gueckedou. In addition, they are flying in 33 tons of medicine and equipment.
Isolation units are essential to stop the spread of the highly contagious disease, Sterk wrote. Her statement also explained that specialized staff is caring for patients who may be infected with Ebola.
Previous Ebola outbreaks have happened in Congo and Uganda. The first known human case happened in 1994. A scientist got sick while responding to an outbreak of Ebola among chimpanzees in a national park in Ivory Coast. The scientist recovered. This information came from a written statement by Dr. Esther Sterk, a tropical disease adviser with Doctors Without Borders.
Many of the victims who died were connected in some way, so they may have been in contact with other, according to Sterk. “That is very typical for Ebola outbreaks.” There tends to be a “transmission chain” in families, Sterk said.
The cause of this Ebola outbreak in Guinea has not been determined, but infections can spread in several ways. The disease is transmitted from one person to another through bodily fluids, by touching objects belonging to people who had the disease, or from eating certain animals.
Sterk expressed concern that the highly contagious and deadly disease could spread into Liberia from Guinea, noting that one of the victims had definitely traveled.
Guinea health officials say they are offering free treatment to all patients. Officials have also asked people to stay calm, wash their hands, and report all cases of the disease.
The latest Ebola outbreak, this time in Guinea, is deadly but under attack by health officials in and out of the country.
By Chester Davis