CONAKRY, Guinea — A recent report from CBC News claims that the Canadian government has committed $1.3 million dollars to help contain the spread of the Ebola virus in Guinea. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) the virus was first reported in Guinea in March. Since then, roughly 200 infections have been reported, nearly 140 of which have resulted in death.
Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird recognizes outbreaks like these as global issues, stating that “biological threats such as the current Ebola outbreak do not recognize borders.” It is suspected that Canadian funding will go toward humanitarian programs to aid those infected, and support for WHO research into the latest outbreak.
The cases that have been documented in Guinea are suspected to be part of a new strain of the Ebola virus. In a report published in The New England Journal of Medicine on April 16, a group of researchers came to the conclusion that the “strain from Guinea has evolved in parallel with the strains from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Gabon from a recent ancestor.”
They believe that the new Ebola strain was not introduced into Guinea, but evolved there and was transmitted to the human population in early December of 2013. In their study, the researchers tested the blood of 20 patients hospitalized for fever, vomiting, diarrhea or hemorrhaging in Guéckédou, Macenta and Kissidougou. They observed a case fatality rate of 86 percent.
Ebola is a deadly virus that kills 30-90 percent of those it infects, depending on the strain. It is classified by WHO as a Risk Group 4 pathogen, indicating easy transmission among humans, serious disease and “high individual and community risk.” Currently, there is no vaccine or treatment.
The virus first appeared in 1976 in Nzara, Sudan and Yambuku in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Since its emergence, Ebola has killed nearly 2,000 people, with an average fatality rate of roughly 67 percent. Many scientists believe the disease was first transmitted to humans through the bodily fluids of infected animals; fruit bats are considered to be the natural host. There are currently five recognized strains: Bundibugyo, Taï Forest, Reston, Sudan and Zaire.
Symptoms include chills, lower back pain, diarrhea, headaches and fatigue before progressing to internal and external bleeding and organ failure. Those infected typically die of shock from bleeding.
WHO considers the Ebola virus to be one of the most dangerous diseases in the world and has called for assistance from other member countries in stopping the outbreak in Guinea and aiding the development for new vaccines and treatments.