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Guinea, Senegal Clash Over Ebola

Combating the Ebola virus outbreak in Guinea.
Combating the Ebola outbreak in Guinea.

Health Minister of Guinea has expressed serious opposition to the decision taken by neighboring Senegal to close its land borders with Guinea during the recent outbreak of the Ebola hemorrhagic fever (Ebola HF) in Guinea.

According to Dr. Remy Lamah, the closure of the borders was the least of all options that any country would have taken.

He pointed out that the closure of borders by any country poses more problems because, according to him, people who use illegal or unofficial point of entry would escalate and they wouldn't be monitored.

The Guinea's Health Minister was speaking Friday, April 11, 2014 at the start of a six-day Assembly of ECOWAS Health Ministers (AHM) hosted by Liberia.

The meeting, which is being held at the Golden Gate Hotel in Paynesville, outside Monrovia, brings together ministers of health of the West African sub-region.

The meeting is being held under the theme: "Universal Health Coverage: issues, Challenges and Opportunities."

It can be recalled that recently, authorities in neighboring Senegal closed the land border with Guinea following the outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus.

Senegalese music superstar YoussouNdour cancelled a weekend concert in Conakry, Guinea's capital, because he feared the disease could spread in a large crowd gathered to hear him.

"Border closure has negative implication and it exposes our weak security," said Dr. Lamah.

He stated that you can only know your best friends in your time of trouble. The decision of Senegal to close its borders with Guinea was also criticized by health ministers of other West African countries, including Nigeria, Guinea Bissau, Cape Verde and Sierra Leone among others at the meeting.

But Dr. ModouDiagneFada, the Minister for Health and Prevention of the Republic of Senegal defended the action taken by his country to close its borders.

According to Dr. Fada, the decision by his government does not in any way show disrespect to international health rules and regulations.

He added that the closure of the borders is backed by Article 43 of the International Health Regulations.

Article 43 of the International Health Regulation (IHR) of the World Health Organization (WHO) among other things, states that, international regulations shall not preclude States Parties from implementing health measures, in accordance with their relevant national law and obligations under international law, in response to specific public health risks or public health emergencies of international concern.

This is the first Ebola virus outbreak registered in the region. It was publicly announced by the Guinean Government on 22 March, following French Institute Pasteur's confirmed identification of Ebola virus in samples of cases initially thought to be Lassa fever, which is endemic to the region.

To date, 157 suspected cases, including 101 deaths have been reported in Guinea and 21 suspected cases in Liberia, out of which 10 resulted lethal.

First discovered in DR Congo and Sudan in 1976, several outbreaks of this viral haemorrhagic fever have been reported in East and Central Africa, but not in West Africa.

Highly contagious, human to human transmission of Ebola occurs by simple contact with blood and body fluids. No vaccine or treatment is yet available for this pathogen, one of the world's most lethal with a case fatality rate of up to 90% depending on the strain.

Source - allAfrica

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