Cote d'Ivoire accelerates Ebola vaccination after second suspected case

·3-min read

Ivorian health authorities are pressing on with vaccinating residents in a neighbourhood of Abidjan where the country's first case of Ebola since 1994 was detected on Monday. Concern is growing after the World Health Organization announced a second suspected case.

The UN health agency said Tuesday that a second suspected case of Ebola had been detected in Côte d'Ivoire.

The country's first confirmed case since 1994 was detected in Abidjan on Monday.

The WHO has identified nine contacts so far.

While no deaths have been reported, spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said the organisation was "very concerned" about the ability of the virus to spread in the country's economic hub Abidjan, with a population of more than four million.

WHO has provided Côte d'Ivoire with 5,000 vaccines against the virus, which is transmitted through close contact with bodily fluids, causes severe fever and, in the worst cases, unstoppable bleeding.

Contact cases

Côte d'Ivoire began vaccinating high-risk populations within 48 hours of the confirmed case: an 18-year old woman from Guinea who travelled overland and arrived in Abidjan last week aboard a bus.

She was admitted to a hospital on Thursday with a fever and is currently receiving treatment.

According to RFI's correspondent in Abidjan the woman came to join her family in the poor neighbourhood of Allahkro, which has now become the focus of the vaccination campaign.

The woman's husband, family and neighbours have been vaccinated and kept in isolation.

Local residents have been coming forward of their own accord.

"It made sense to come and get vaccinated because Ebola is a deadly disease. Better to prevent than cure," Yoboué Salomon told RFI.

"We know that the patient stayed here before going to the hospital, so all the people around who are contact cases had to be vaccinated," said Ivorian Health Minister Pierre Demba on a visit to the centre.

Breaking the chain

"The aim is to break the chain of contamination to stop the disease spreading," Demba said.

They hope to vaccinate 2,000 people in three days, including those who travelled with the infected young woman and those who were in contact with those travellers.

Experts are using the so-called ring vaccination strategy, giving doses to people who have come into contact with a confirmed Ebola patient, as well as first responders and health workers.

Regional health officials said they were working to track down people who may have been in contact with the young infected woman in her home region in the north of Guinea.

Reinforced border checks

Meanwhile health authorities in Guinea are conducting their own investigations.

Around 50 people are being placed in quarantine and vaccinated against Ebola, including members of the infected woman's family in Labé in the north.

She changed buses in Nzérékoré in the south of Guinea before heading on to Côte d'Ivoire.

Local governor Mohamed Gharé told RFI border checks between Guinea and Côte d'Ivoire but also Liberia and Sierra Leone have been tightened.

"You cannot cross the border without a vaccination card or card showing you've had a test," he said.

Zaire strain

The confirmed Ebola case in Côte d'Ivoire, its first since 1994, is the third outbreak on the continent this year after the Democratic Republic of Congo and Guinea.

While it is yet to be confirmed, WHO said the Côte d'Ivoire case was most likely the Zaire strain -- which was behind a four-month-long Ebola outbreak that claimed 12 lives in Guinea earlier this year.

The Zaire strain killed more than 11,300 people mostly in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone between 2013 and 2016.

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