By Sarah Wade
Image courtesy of CDC Global Health, licensed under CC BY 2.0
On top of the COVID-19 pandemic, West Africa is experiencing another, newly declared deadly viral outbreak of Ebola. On February 11, 2021, two people contracted Ebola and died in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)(1). A few days later, another outbreak was confirmed by the Ministry of Health in Conakry Guinea (2). Several cases of severe bleeding and organ failure were reported. Ten people have since been identified as suspected cases in Conakry, while five people have died (2).
Similar to methods used to track and isolate COVID-19 cases, West Africa’s Ministry of Health said that they are using contact tracing as a method to track this new Ebola outbreak. The Health Ministry of the Congo deployed a team that traced over 100 close contacts from the two people who died in DRC (1). After dealing with one of the deadliest outbreaks from 2013 to 2016 Guinean authorities said that they are better prepared to stop further spread of the virus this time around (2).
Ebola and COVID-19 are two very different viruses, but both affect a vulnerable population in a similar way spreading from person to person via close contact. Ebola causes severe bleeding and organ failure and is spread through bodily contact (2). COVID-19 is a respiratory virus causing cough, shortness of breath, as well as loss of taste and smell, and is spread through droplets in the air (3). Despite the viral differences and genetic makeup, both of these highly contagious agents are infecting West Africa at the same time causing panic.
Now, the Red Cross among other organizations, are calling for a response that is “faster than the virus itself” (4). More than seven hundred volunteers are responding as the first wave to combat the new Ebola outbreak (4). In an already pandemic stricken world, a quick and effective response is essential in order to contain the spread. COVID-19 has been on the forefront globally; however, it is important to note that other outbreaks and deadly viruses are also occurring and that we should make ourselves aware of them, even if the danger is not down the street from us.