GENEVA - The World Health Organization has begun giving the Ebola vaccine to high-risk people in Ivory Coast, after a woman was diagnosed with the Ebola virus in Abidjan.
On Saturday, Ivory Coast declared its first case of Ebola in more than 25 years. An 18-year-old woman who arrived by bus from Guinea in Abidjan, a city of nearly five million inhabitants, was found to be infected with the deadly virus.
Officials have responded swiftly. Within 48 hours after the outbreak was declared, they began vaccinating people who had contact with the Ebola patient, as well as first responders and health workers.
World Health Organization spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said the vaccination campaign was able to get off the ground quickly because surplus vaccine doses the WHO had used to fight a four-month-long outbreak in Guinea were rapidly sent to Ivory Coast.
"This swift response is a reminder of how crucial preparedness and surveillance are to minimize the potential damage and to try to limit and to stop the spread of the virus by breaking that transmission chain," he said.
The 18-year-old patient is currently receiving treatment in a local hospital, Jasarevic said, adding that health officials are tracing the nine people with whom she had come in contact. There is one suspect case.
Jasarevic added there is no indication the cases of Ebola in Ivory Coast are linked to the monthslong Ebola outbreak in Guinea earlier this year.
"Preliminary investigations and genomic sequencing to identify the strain show that there is a close link to the 2014 to 2016 outbreak in West Africa," he said. "And we are probably looking here at the Zaire strain of the virus as well. Now, further investigations are needed really to confirm these early results."
Since the Ebola outbreak was declared in Guinea in mid-February, WHO has been helping six countries, including Ivory Coast, prepare for a potential outbreak. This includes support in disease surveillance and screenings at border crossings, as well as setting up rapid response teams and improving testing and treatment.
An Ebola outbreak centered on Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone killed more than 11,000 people between 2014 and 2016.
Source: Voice of America