Côte d’Ivoire announces Ebola outbreak

A patient who recently arrived from Guinea tested positive for Ebola, the Ivory Coast (Côte d’Ivoire) Ministry of Health confirmed, WHO said. The patient was hospitalized with the fever after arriving in Abidjan, the country’s de facto capital and largest city, earlier this week.

“It is of great concern that this outbreak was declared in Abidjan, a metropolis of more than four million people,” Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa, said in a statement.

The case was the first in the country since 1994, when an ethnologist contracted the virus after performing necropsy on a sick chimpanzee. Ivory Coast was unaffected during the 2014-2016 Ebola epidemic in West Africa, which originated in Guinea and claimed at least 11,325 lives, with cases reported in the United States and the United Kingdom.

Since then, there have been numerous Ebola outbreaks, especially in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which in May had its fourth outbreak in less than three years. But Guinea reported its first outbreak since the epidemic only this February, raising renewed fears of a possible repeat of the 2014-2016 scenario. In March, the WHO rated the risk of an Ebola outbreak spilling over into neighboring countries, including Ivory Coast, as “very high.”

It remains unclear whether the newly identified case can be traced to the outbreak in Guinea, which was officially declared in June. The WHO noted Saturday that “there is no indication that the current case in Côte d’Ivoire is related to an earlier outbreak in Guinea.”

As part of its efforts to contain the spread of the virus, the WHO said it will transfer about 5,000 doses of Ebola vaccine, originally intended for Guinea, to Cote d’Ivoire. These vaccinations will be given to health workers, first responders, and known contacts of patients infected with Ebola.

Noting that WHO will also send a team of experts to assist in contact tracing, treatment, and outreach, WHO said it should not impose a travel ban on the country and urged Côte d’Ivoire not to close its own borders.

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