WHO officials said a readiness assessment for Guinea’s neighbors showed gaps in their preparedness for the Ebola outbreak.

World Health Organization officials say the risk of an Ebola outbreak spreading to Guinea’s neighbors is “very high” and that some of these countries are not prepared for vaccination campaigns.

The WHO representative in Guinea, Georges Alfred Ki-Zerbo, informed a virtual briefing on Friday that 18 Ebola cases had been identified and four of those infected had died.

So far, 1,604 people have been vaccinated against Ebola in the new outbreak in Guinea. This is the first recurrence of the virus since a 2013-2016 world outbreak – the world’s worst – that spread to several other West African countries, killing more than 11,300 people.

The Ebola virus causes severe vomiting and diarrhea and spreads through contact with body fluids.

Officials said a readiness rating for Guinea’s neighbors – Senegal, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone and Liberia – showed gaps in their readiness.

“Guinea has six neighboring countries and we have carried out a readiness assessment. Two of the countries are not ready yet and one is borderline and three countries are more or less ready, “WHO Regional Emergency Director Abdou Salam Gueye said via videoconference from Guinea.

He said none of the neighboring countries are fully ready to start Ebola vaccination should they need to, and that enough vaccine doses are not available to start preventive vaccination anyway.

“But these neighboring countries agreed to work and coordinate across borders to control the outbreak,” he said.

Ebola vaccines, like some COVID-19 vaccinations, require storage in the ultra-cold chain, which poses logistical challenges. Guinea received COVID-19 vaccine doses this week from China.

“We are dealing with quite fragile health systems, including the (lack of) capacity to address many public health challenges, so dealing with COVID and Ebola remains challenging,” said Michel Yao, WHO director of strategic health operations.

“We have to act quickly”

Separately, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) launched an appeal on Thursday to raise USD 8 million for efforts to contain the recurrence of the Ebola virus in Guinea.

The funds will be used to support essential outbreak preparation and response activities as well as critical national and prefectural coordination efforts and key border crossings, the UN panel said in a statement.

“We have seen the devastation that delayed public health emergency response can wreak havoc on a community and society as a whole,” said Maximilian Diaz, director of IOM Guinea.

“We have to stand by the people of Guinea and act quickly.”

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