Tests confirm Ebola infections in Liberia

Liberia flag

The outbreak, which may involve at least 122 cases in Guinea, has now spread to Liberia., selensergen / iStockphoto

Liberia's health ministry said lab tests have confirmed Ebola hemorrhagic fever in two patients from a district that borders Guinea, the country where the outbreak began, according to a statement yesterday from the World Health Organization (WHO).

Also, the number of lab-confirmed cases in the outbreak continues to grow, with 24 cases now, the WHO said yesterday in a separate statement. The WHO has warned that the outbreak is a rapidly evolving event and that the numbers of cases and deaths could change.

Liberian patients traveled to Guinea

In Liberia, two samples tested positive for the virus among seven from adult patients from the same district in the country's Lofa County, an area in northernmost region that shares a border with Guinea. Testing was done at mobile lab in the Guinea capital of Conakry run by the Pasteur Institute's lab in Dakar, Senegal.

In a separate statement, the WHO said the two lab-confirmed cases involve people who had traveled to Guinea. WHO spokesman Gregory Hartl today on Twitter said that Liberia has seven suspected and confirmed cases, four of them fatal.

So far, the Foya district in Lofa County is the only area of Liberia reporting confirmed or suspected Ebola cases. So far two deaths have been reported among the suspected case-patients, in a 35-year-old woman who died Mar 21 and who tested positive for the disease and in a man who died Mar 27 and tested negative. Health officials in Liberia are following 27 contacts of the patients.

Suspected cases in Liberia have triggered several response actions, the WHO said. Officials have beefed up infection prevention and control practices at the Foya Hospital, provided extra personal protective equipment to protect health workers and support isolation measures. Health workers are also receiving training on how to safely manage patients with suspected Ebola illness.

Liberia has a national task force that is leading the response efforts, which include assistance from several partners including the WHO, the International Red Cross, and a handful of other organizations.

In other developments, Sierra Leone and Liberia have both scaled down the number of suspected cases reported earlier. Liberia has three suspected case-patients who were from Guinea's Gueckedou prefecture and died in Liberia. Sierra Leone has two suspected fatal cases, both of whom had traveled to Guinea before they got sick.

Cases in Guinea reach 122

In Guinea, 10 more suspected Ebola infections have been reported, with the number of suspected and confirmed cases at 112, including 70 deaths, the WHO said. On Twitter today, however, Hartl put the country's outbreak count at 122 suspected and confirmed cases, with 78 deaths.

Four of the latest suspected cases-patients are from the country's capital of Conakry, but most illnesses have been reported in three prefectures in the forested southeastern part of the country. Two of the newest suspected cases involve healthcare workers, which the WHO said highlights the need to strengthen infection prevention and control practices in medical facilities.

So far 24 cases have been confirmed by polymerase chain reaction testing, which includes 11 from Conakry, and 13 from two prefectures where the outbreak is centered: Gueckedou (6) and Macenta (7).

Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone all have active emergency committees, prepared their Ebola outbreak response plans, and conducted needs assessments, the WHO said, adding that it and its partners are continuing to response outbreak response activities.

Senegal-Guinea border closed

Elsewhere, Senegal has closed its border with Guinea to curb the spread of the Ebola outbreak, the Associated Press (AP) reported today.

The news came in a Mar 29 announcement from Senegal's interior ministry, which also said authorities in the southern region of Kolda temporarily shuttered a weekly market that draws large crowds from its West African neighbors, which include Guinea, Gambia, and Guinea-Bissau.

The WHO has said it does not recommend any travel or trade restrictions be applied to Guinea, Liberia, or Sierra Leone, based on the current outbreak information.

The outbreak, first announced on Mar 23, is the first in West Africa and involves the highly lethal Zaire strain of the Ebola virus, which hasn't been implicated in an outbreak since 2008. The disease jumps from infected wildlife to humans and can then spread through secretions in close-contact scenarios.

Health officials have said it's unlikely, but not impossible, that travelers would be infected, but they have warned medical workers in other countries to be alert for those returning home from tropical countries with symptoms such as fever, headache, and diarrhea.

See also:

Mar 30 WHO statement on Liberia cases

Mar 30 WHO statement focusing on Guinea cases

Gregory Hartl Twitter feed

Mar 30 AP story

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