Guinea records first Ebola deaths since 2016

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Four people have died of Ebola in Guinea’s southeastern region of Nzerekore, the first resurgence of the disease in five years.

One of the victims in Guinea was a nurse who fell ill in late January and was buried on February 1, National Health Security Agency chief Sakoba Keita told local media.

“Among those who took part in the burial, eight people showed symptoms: diarrhoea, vomiting and bleeding,” he said. “Three of them died and four others are in hospital.”

Keita said one patient “escaped” but had been found and hospitalised in the capital Conakry.

Health Minister Remy Lamah said officials were “really concerned” about the deaths, the first since a 2013-2016 epidemic – which began in Guinea – left 11,300 dead across the region.

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The World Health Organization (WHO) has eyed each new outbreak since 2016 with great concern, treating a recent one in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) as an international health emergency.

On Sunday, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus tweeted that the UN health agency had been informed of two suspected cases of the deadly disease in Guinea.

“Confirmatory testing under way,” the tweet said, adding that the WHO’s regional and country offices were “supporting readiness and response efforts”.

The DRC has faced several outbreaks of the illness, with the WHO on Thursday confirming a resurgence three months after authorities declared the end of the country’s latest outbreak.

DRC declared the six-month epidemic over in November. It was the country’s eleventh Ebola outbreak, claiming 55 lives out of 130 cases.

The widespread use of Ebola vaccinations, which were administered to more than 40,000 people, helped curb the disease.

The 2013-2016 spread sped up the development of the vaccine against Ebola, with a global emergency stockpile of 500,000 doses planned to respond quickly to future outbreaks, the vaccine alliance Gavi said in January.