Curiouser and curiouser. When most people think ‘killer viruses’ they think Ebola. The current haemorrhagic fever outbreak in Guinea started in February 2014 and has so far claimed 59 lives. A crucial aspect of ebolavirus outbreaks is determining what strain of virus is responsible. Unfortunately, signs currently point to this outbreak being caused by Ebola Zaire (ProMED), the strain with the highest case fatality rate (up to 90%).
The ebolavirus is spread between people by close contact with infected bodily secretions. Disease surveillance is key for interrupting its transmission, such as by isolating infected individuals and protecting healthcare workers, who are often the next victims of the virus. So when signs of the disease hit the Guinea capital of Conakry, a coastal city home to just under 2 million people, health officials have been quick to act.
Tests have now shown that two fatalities suffering with Ebola-like symptoms at the time of death in Conakry were not infected with the virus. Whilst this may suggest that the outbreak has not reached the capital, it is nevertheless worrying that an unknown haemorrhagic fever may be lurking.
Of note, it now also appears that ebolavirus has spread into neighbouring Sierra Leone (ProMED), though we shall have to wait for tests to positively identify this disease.