EN NEVA (AP) – A senior World Health Organization official has said that genetic analysis of the ongoing Ebola outbreak in Guinea suggests it could be caused by a survivor of the devastating West African epidemic that ended five years ago.
At a news conference in Washington, DC, the head of the WHO Emergency Management Agency, Dr. Michael Ryan, described the results of the virus’ genetic sequence in Guinea as “quite remarkable.”
On Friday, scientists in Africa և Germany posted their findings on a virology website, concluding that the current Ebola outbreak in Guinea is very similar to the virus that caused the widespread outbreak in West Africa in 2014.
“Further research is needed,” Ryan said. But he added that based on the existing genetic sequence data, the current outbreak is unlikely to be linked to the animal, which is how almost all previous Ebola outbreaks began. “(This) is much more likely to be related to the persistence (delay) of infection (virus) in humans.” Ryan said it would probably be the longest period of time a virus has survived an outbreak.
Scientists have previously documented Ebola survivors who inadvertently infected others long after they recovered, but such rare cases did not cause outbreaks. In 2018, doctors published a study of a Liberian woman who probably caught Ebola in 2014 but infected three relatives about a year later.
Health officials have also warned that men can sometimes infect others through sexual activity, as if long after recovery. The virus can live in semen for more than a year.
Monitoring survivors underscores the rare likelihood of Ebola infection long after, և Ryan warns against stigma. He said the vast majority of people with Ebola cleared the virus from their system and recovered within six months.
Ryan said that a small number of people end up with the virus, but it is not contagious to others “except in very special circumstances.”
He said there were 18 cases of Ebola in Guinea so far, with the WHO sending more than 30,000 doses of the vaccine.
The Ebola outbreak that spread to West Africa in 2014-2016 eventually killed more than 11,000 people.