Source of Ivory Coast Ebola case probed

An investigation is under way into the source of an Ebola infection in a traveler from Guinea whose infection was detected in the Ivory Coast's major urban center of Abidjan, marking the country's first case since 1994.

In a statement today, Ivory Coast's health ministry said the patient is an 18-year-old woman who left the city of Labe in Guinea traveling by road, arriving in Abidjan on Aug 11. Her illness was identified and treated by health services the next day. Tests on samples at the Pasteur Institute in Ivory Coast confirmed her Ebola infection on Aug 14.

Officials said case is an isolated, imported infection, and the woman is at the Highly Epidemic Diseases treatment center at the University Hospital of Treichville.

No link to earlier Guinea outbreak

In an Aug 14 statement, the World Health Organization (WHO) said there is no indication that the Ivory Coast case is linked to an earlier outbreak in Guinea. However, further investigation—including genetic sequencing—is under way to see if the two events are connected.

Labe, the city the girl is from, is Guinea's second-biggest city and is in the country's northwest, far from the area in the southeast where the country's most recent outbreak occurred.

That event, which resulted in 23 cases and 12 deaths, was declared over on Jun 19. Genetic sequencing in that outbreak suggested that the likely source was a survivor of West Africa's 2014-2016 outbreak who had harbored the virus and unknowingly passed it to another person.

Matshidiso Moeti, MBBS, who directs the WHO's African regional office, said the Ivory Coast's case is concerning, due to the threat of virus spread in Abidjan, a city that's home to more than 4 million people.

"However, much of the world's expertise in tackling Ebola is here on the continent and Cote d'Ivoire can tap into this experience and bring the response to full speed," she said. "The country is one of the six that WHO has supported recently to beef up their Ebola readiness, and this quick diagnosis shows preparedness is paying off."

The Ivory Coast health ministry said it has Ebola vaccine and will immunize target groups, including frontline healthcare workers, the patient's contacts, and border security personnel. The WHO said it is transferring 5,000 vaccine doses from Guinea and that WHO staff based in Ivory Coast are supporting the case investigation.

The Ivory Coast's last case in 1994 involved a scientist who contracted the virus from infected chimpanzees.

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