COTE D’IVOIRE – Ebola has resurfaced in Ivory Coast for the first time in 25 years, health officials said, after an 18-year-old woman from neighboring Guinea tested positive for the hemorrhagic fever in the nation’s bustling commercial capital, Abidjan.
It is the first Ebola case in a major West African city since 2016. It comes about two months after Guinea declared the end of an outbreak that killed 12 people this year in the country and as a third wave of the coronavirus pummels hospitals across the region.
“It is of immense concern that this outbreak has been declared in Abidjan, a metropolis of more than 4 million people,” Matshidiso Moeti, the World Health Organization’s regional director for Africa, said in a statement. “However, much of the world’s expertise in tackling Ebola is here on the continent.”
It’s unclear whether the Ivory Coast case is linked to the last epidemic, which started in February in Guinea’s forested southeast, the same region where the deadliest wave of Ebola on record erupted. That 2014-2016 outbreak killed more than 11,300 people, mostly across Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
Health leaders in West Africa say they know how to manage the menace. Thousands of Ebola vaccine doses are on the way from Guinea, officials said, and health workers, as well as people suspected to have come into contact with Ebola cases, will receive the first shots.
Ivory Coast’s Health Ministry said investigators are rushing to trace contacts but did not specify how many people are thought to have interacted with the young patient, who entered the country from Labé, the second-largest city in Guinea, before seeking medical help the next day in Abidjan.
Ebola’s origin remains a mystery, but researchers suspect it probably came from bats. One of the flying mammals in Liberia tested positive for the virus in 2019.
Ivory Coast last faced Ebola in 1994, when a scientist investigating primate deaths in the Tai Forest caught the virus after conducting an autopsy on a chimpanzee, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The patient received treatment in Switzerland and recovered.
Scientists warn that the world will see more battles with lethal disease as deforestation pushes humans closer to animals. Another Ebola outbreak emerged this year in Congo.
Up to 90 percent of Ebola patients died in previous outbreaks, but health officials say chances of survival are better than ever with the rise of effective treatments. The scourge spreads mainly through body fluids.
Guinea has yet to uncover other Ebola cases. Last week, the nation reported the region’s first brush with Marburg virus, another hemorrhagic fever with fatality rates of up to 88 percent, depending on the strain.
The government has ordered 155 people into three weeks of quarantine.
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