With the threat of the Ebola epidemic happening in the neighboring nation of Guinea, the country of Sengal has chosen to close its borders. Though this the border-closing will disrupt commerce in Senegal’s southern region, authorities have deemed it a necessary precaution for protecting their citizens and promoting the public health safety in the West African region.
The first suspected cases of Ebola were detected in rural Guinea back in January or February. However it took about six weeks before those strange cases were properly identified as being caused by the Ebola virus. Though it is difficult to say for certain, it is estimated that thus far there have been 111 cases of Ebola-caused hemorrhagic fever. Of those cases, 70 have been fatal, making the fatality rate for this particular Ebola outbreak 63 percent.
On Friday, March 28 the health ministry of Guinea confirmed that Ebola had reached the Conakry, the country’s capital. Thus far seven cases of Ebola and an additional Ebola-caused fatality have been confirmed within the capital. Conakry is densely populated with hundreds of thousands of people living in poor shanties. The density of people, poverty, and the limited access to medical services puts the city’s citizens particularly at risk for an epidemic. Nonetheless, the spokesmen for Guinea’s Ministry of Health says there is no need to panic and that sanitary steps such as hand-washing and quarantining infected patients should be adequate to control the spread of the disease.
The threat of the spreading Ebola epidemic has prompted the government of Senegal to close its border to Guinea. Most of the reported cases of Ebola have been in the southern regions of Guinea. Although Senegal shares only a northern border with Guinea, the Senegalese government officials have decided that it is in their best interest to cut off contact with their neighboring nation until the epidemic subsides. The border will remain closed indefinitely until the Senegalese Ministry of the Interior gives further notice.
The closing of the border will greatly affect commerce within the area. In particular the southern city of Kolda and the southeastern city of Kedougou will be affected because of the regular border-crossings made by traders and market-goers who inhabit the region.
The border closing could potentially keep mourners from attending the funerals of loved ones. However, this is likely in the best interest of the public. Even after Ebola hemorrhagic fever claims a patient’s life, the infected person’s body remains a potent source of the virus. As such, the humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders has warned that traditional funerals in which people travel to burial locations to touch the bodies of their deceased loved ones has the potential to exacerbate the epidemic.
In addition to the closing of the border, the Senegalese authorities have also instituted mandatory sanitary checks on flights coming from the Guinean capital of Conakry.
Some of Guinea’s neighboring nations have already reported cases of Ebola. Across Guinea’s southern border, the country of Liberia has reported eight suspected cases of Ebola that include six deaths. Encompassed in Guinea’s southern and western border, the country of Sierra Leon has reported six suspected cases of Ebola, with five of them having ended in fatality. Guinean authorities are in the process of deploying a mobile laboratory to the country’s southern regions. There it will hopefully be able to definitely confirm or deny the presence of the Ebola virus in suspected Ebola cases from these two neighboring nations.
By Sarah Takushi