Health

Guinea quarantines villages in reinforced bid to stamp out Ebola

A billboard with a message about Ebola is seen on a street in Conakry, Guinea October 26, 2014.

A billboard with a message about Ebola is seen on a street in Conakry, Guinea October 26, 2014.  (REUTERS/Michelle Nichols)

Guinea will put four villages under a 21-day quarantine as part of a robust strategy to stamp out a lingering Ebola epidemic after new cases of the disease were discovered there.

The worst Ebola epidemic on record has killed more than 11,000 people in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea over the last year and a half. Liberia became Ebola-free in May, but neighboring Sierra Leone and Guinea are still struggling to get to zero cases despite hundreds of millions of dollars in aid.

According to a health ministry document seen by Reuters on Wednesday, the quarantine will apply to Sikhourou Koloteya in the Forecariah prefecture southeast of the capital Conakry along with Tanéné and Bamba in Dubreka prefecture.

The village of Tamarasy in the Boké mining region will also be subject to the new measures.

"In practice, a hooping system will be organized resulting in a ban on movement by inhabitants in the affected locations," the document stated.

Twenty-one days is the standard observation period for an individual believed to have come in contact with an Ebola-infected person.

Health officials will also carry out intensive door-to-door visits to homes in the quarantined areas to try to identify cases of the disease.

"We have already started to apply the new measures today in Forecariah. The other locations will follow from tomorrow,"

Fodé Tass Sylla, spokesman for Guinea's Ebola coordination unit, told Reuters.

Forecariah, Dubreka and Boké account for the bulk of new Ebola infections in Guinea over the past three weeks, according to a situation report issued by the World Health Organization on Wednesday.

"The area of active transmission within those prefectures has changed, and in several instances has expanded," the report stated.

Cases have also been recorded in neighboring Sierra Leone's capital Freetown following several weeks without new infections, officials said on Monday, dashing hopes that the city had vanquished the outbreak there.

A health official said on Wednesday there were concerns that exposure to the disease there may have been greater than initially thought after a pregnant woman treated at a Freetown hospital later tested positive for Ebola.

"Some 31 members of staff came into contact with this lady, but we haven't managed to track all of them down," the source said. "When you think of all the contacts they'll have made when they go home, it's scary."