Two more Ebola deaths reported in Guinea despite waning outbreak
Guinea’s health ministry has reported two more deaths in the country’s Ebola virus disease (EVD) outbreak, raising the fatality number to 157, according to an update today from the World Health Organization (WHO). No other probable or suspected cases have been reported, and the overall EVD illness count is 235.
The number of confirmed cases stands at 127, the same as in the last update on May 6. The latest illness onset appears to be in Conakry, the country’s capital, on Apr 22. The WHO said the case numbers are subject to change based on several factors, including a recently introduced serology test used for clinical cases that test negative by polymerase chain reaction.
No new cases have been reported in Liberia or Sierra Leone, but in the latter, 10 Lassa fever infections have been found during testing. That disease is endemic in Sierra Leone.
In other Ebola developments, the current outbreak in West Africa shows that the world has a limited ability to respond to rare, highly virulent communicable diseases, according to a commentary by Heinz Feldmann, MD, an Ebola researcher and virologist at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Rocky Mountain Laboratories in Hamilton, Mont.
He wrote in the New England Journal of Medicine yesterday that the lack of interventions such as vaccines or drugs makes quick diagnosis a key element of the response. He added that tests may fail when new variants are involved, such as in the current outbreak. Real-time sharing of data, especially sequence information, is critical, he said.
Rapid, reliable diagnostics need to be available closer to areas where the diseases are endemic so that health officials don’t have to rely on far-away reference labs, Feldmann wrote.
So far researchers have found little pathogenicity differences in various Zaire Ebola viruses, and it’s not a given that the West Africa variant is more virulent, he said. If the 70% case fatality rate is confirmed, it could even reflect a less virulent strain, he added.