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Ivory Coast declares Ebola outbreak after 1st case in 25 years reported in de facto capital Abidjan, prompting ‘immense concern’

Ivory Coast declares Ebola outbreak after 1st case in 25 years reported in de facto capital Abidjan, prompting ‘immense concern’
The West African nation of Cote d'Ivoire has declared an outbreak of Ebola virus after detecting the country's first case in more than two decades, with the World Health Organization sounding the alarm about its potential spread.

A patient who had recently traveled from Guinea tested positive for Ebola, the Ivory Coast (Cote d'Ivoire) Ministry of Health confirmed on Saturday, the WHO reported. The patient was hospitalized with fever after arriving in Abidjan, the country’s de facto capital and its biggest city, earlier this week.

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

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The case became the country’s first since 1994, when an ethnologist got infected with the virus after performing a necropsy on a sick chimpanzee. Ivory Coast was spared during the 2014-2016 West African Ebola epidemic that originated in Guinea and claimed at least 11,325 lives, with cases reported in the US and UK.

Since then, an array of Ebola outbreaks have been reported, particularly in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which experienced its fourth outbreak in less than three years earlier in May. Guinea, however, reported its first outbreak of the disease since the epidemic only in February this year, sparking renewed fears about a potential repeat of the 2014-2016 scenario. In March, the WHO estimated the risk that the Ebola outbreak would spill over to the neighboring countries, including Ivory Coast, as “very high.” 

It’s not clear if the newly detected case can be traced back to the Guinea outbreak, which was declared officially in June, with the WHO noting on Saturday that “there is no indication that the current case in Cote d’Ivoire is linked to the earlier outbreak in Guinea.”

As part of its effort to curb the spread of the virus, the WHO said it would transfer some 5,000 Ebola vaccine doses, initially earmarked to Guinea, to Ivory Coast. The jabs will be administered to health workers, first responders and known contacts of the Ebola-positive patients. 

Noting that it would also send a team of experts to assist with contact tracing, treatment and community outreach, the WHO argued that a travel ban should not be imposed on the country, while urging Ivory Coast against shutting down its own borders.

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