Ebola outbreaks in Africa require ‘swift and overwhelming response,’ White House says

Washington-DC

FILE- In this Nov. 20, 2014 file photo, an MSF Ebola heath worker is sprayed as he leaves the contaminated zone at the Ebola treatment centre in Gueckedou, Guinea. Guinea has officially declared an Ebola epidemic Monday Feb. 15, 2021, after at least three people have died and others have been infected in the West African nation. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay-File)

(NEXSTAR) – As countries in West and Central Africa work to extinguish two unrelated outbreaks of Ebola, President Biden’s administration is vowing to work with the affected countries and international groups to end the spread of the deadly disease as quickly as possible.

“The United States stands ready to do everything in its power to ensure a robust global response and to stop these outbreaks,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement.

On Monday, the West African nation of Guinea declared an Ebola epidemic after at least three people died and four others were infected.

Neighboring Sierra Leone and Liberia have put their citizens on high alert as the three West African nations battled the world’s deadliest Ebola outbreak from 2014 to 2016, which began in Guinea and in which more than 11,300 people died.

Guinea’s new Ebola outbreak occurred in N’Zerekore, in southern Guinea, where health officials detected suspicious cases of Ebola with patients presenting symptoms of diarrhea, vomiting and bleeding. The sick had participated in the burial of a nurse on Feb. 1 in Gouake, according to Guinea’s Minister of Health Remy Lamah, who added that the first investigation counted seven cases, all of people over the age of 25 years, including the two women and one male who have died.

Guinea’s announcement comes more than a week after eastern Congo confirmed it has four cases of Ebola. The outbreaks in the two countries are not linked.

On Tuesday, U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan met with Ambassadors from Guinea, Liberia, Democratic Republic of Congo and Sierra Leone to convey U.S. willingness to work closely with their governments.

“Outbreaks require swift and overwhelming response in order to avoid catastrophic consequences,” Psaki said in the statement. “We cannot afford to take our foot off the gas – even as we battle COVID, we must ensure capacity and financing for health security worldwide.”

Psaki said that Biden was briefed on the outbreaks Tuesday morning and “his prayers are with the families of those who have died and those who are impacted by Ebola, COVID-19, and other ongoing global health challenges.”

International humanitarian and medical organizations are also racing to help prevent further spread of the virus.

The World Health Organization has said it is working to be sure that vaccines developed during the 2014 to 2016 outbreak, will be readily available as quickly as possible. Last month the World Health Organization said it was creating a global emergency stockpile of about 500,000 doses of the Ebola vaccine to help stamp out future outbreaks, but only 7,000 were available at the time of the statement. The Ebola vaccine being stockpiled is made by Merck.

“Time is of the essence. The resurgence of the virus in Guinea comes at the worst possible time when the country is already facing the COVID-19 pandemic,” Mohammed Mukhier, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies’ Regional Director for Africa said, adding there is hope with scientific advances. “Unless the response is swift, the health, economic and social impacts are likely to be immense for millions of people in a country with a relatively weak health system, and where more than half of the population lives below the poverty line.”

The IFRC and Guinea Red Cross say teams that include more than 2,500 volunteers have been activated in Guinea to provide contact tracing, psychosocial support, water and sanitation.

The international medical organization Doctors Without Borders said it is also sending teams to combat the outbreak.

“We know from the past that the speed of response is important … We also know that community engagement is vital, so we will be trying to get the right balance between responding quickly and taking steps to make sure the community is a willing and active participant in both prevention and response,” said Frederik van der Schrieck, the organization’s head of mission in Guinea.

The Associated Press contribute to this report.

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