Libmonster ID: U.S.-1341
Author(s) of the publication: V. A. MELNIKOV

V. A. MELNIKOV

Our sobkor in Ghana

Keywords: Ebola, virus, Ghana, Liberia, ECOWAS, borders

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), in the last week of January of this year, three African countries affected by the Ebola virus have again experienced outbreaks of the deadly disease 1.

Of the 124 reported cases, 80 were registered in Sierra Leone, 39 in Guinea and 5 in Liberia. In February of this year - 74, 52 and 2, respectively. More than 16,000 children have lost their parents and become orphans as a result of the spread of the virus in these three countries2.

Since December 2013, approximately 10,5 thousand people have died.

"The increase in cases is undoubtedly worrying, but we knew that the fever would flare up again," said David Nabarro, the UN Secretary-General's special Representative for Ebola. "We are on the right track, but we need to be vigilant because there are still pockets of infection."

By the end of 2014 and the beginning of the new year, WHO recorded the lowest number of cases. Hopes were growing that the critical point in the fight against the fever was over.

"However, the suspicions of health workers, especially in Guinea, and the lack of confidence in local practices in countering the virus continue to serve as an obstacle in the fight against Ebola," the UN said.

Once again, the unsafe burial of bodies in eastern Guinea on the border with Ivory Coast has caused 11 new cases. "A team of rapid response doctors is operating in the area," the WHO added.

Relatives and close people who attended the funeral were already infected, because they had physical contact with the bodies of the deceased.

WHO stressed the need to step up efforts before the start of the rainy season in April and May, which can cause road blurring and hinder the movement of medical teams.

THE SITUATION IN GHANA

Ghanaian President John Dramani Mahama, on behalf of the member countries of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which he heads, called on the International donor community to "forgive" external debts to the countries of the subregion most affected by the Ebola virus 3.

Debt relief will enable the governments of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone to rebuild their largely declining economies, especially their socio-economic sectors, and attract investment. This was stated by President Mahama while on a visit to the capital of Ethiopia-Addis Ababa on the eve of the African Union summit.

According to data for January of this year, 131 cases of suspected Ebola were recorded in Ghana, but the results of tests made at the Memorial Institute for Medical Research im. Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research, were negative 4.

On 15 January, a technical meeting of representatives of ECOWAS countries and their international partners was held in Accra to coordinate efforts in the fight against the Ebola virus in the West African subregion. During the mero-

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Ghana's Health Minister, Kweku Ajiemang-Mensah, said that the country's territory continues to be free of the Ebola virus, thanks to a special surveillance system for the possible occurrence of the deadly disease.

The aim of the meeting, which took place on the eve of the ECOWAS Summit, was to discuss the gaps and progress made in addressing the spread of infection in the subregion by the Ministers of Health of the economic community and officials.

According to Kweku Ajiemang-Mensah, most fishermen from Liberia and Sierra Leone, as well as tourists from countries affected by the disease, are listed at risk as potential vectors of the disease and are under special control of the Ministry of Health of Ghana.

Carlos Brito, a representative of the West African Health Organization (WAHO), is confident that the prevalence rate of the dangerous disease in the countries of the West African subregion most affected by the virus has decreased, but, despite this, it still has a minimal value in certain areas.

Carlos Brito assured that WAHO, with the support of stakeholders, will continue to strengthen measures to jointly combat the deadly virus to ensure that the goal of reducing new outbreaks to zero is met.

Since April 2014, when the first case was officially confirmed in the West African subregion, by mid-January 2015, the number of cases had already reached 21,086 thousand, including 8,289 thousand. Most of the deaths occur in countries such as Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia5.

On January 16, a two-day high-level coordination meeting of representatives of ECOWAS member countries and their international partners was held in Accra (Ghana), during which they summed up the results of the joint fight in the framework of a comprehensive regional response to the Ebola epidemic. Speaking at the opening, Ghanaian President John Dramani Mahama, as Chairman of the economic community, called for greater coordination of efforts to slow the spread of the deadly virus.

Cooperation, in his opinion, should be manifested in deepening not only regional, but also global interaction and sustainable multisectoral support for countries affected by the virus in the fight against the deadly disease.

The ECOWAS Chairman noted that, despite the current downward trend in the number of cases in Guinea, the country still has a long way to go to bring the situation under full control. In neighboring Sierra Leone and Liberia, there are also signs that indicate a decline in the activity of the virus, but it is too early to talk about a victory over the disease.

According to John Dramani Mahama, there is still a need to raise awareness of the virus in the countries of the sub-region.

"The uncontrolled spread of Ebola in West Africa has been 'heartbreaking', especially as it has led to the isolation of the three most affected countries, " said Mohamed ibn Chambas, the UN Special Envoy for West Africa.

The World Bank, in its January 12 report, noted that employment in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone could fall by 50% this year, while there will be a shortage of labor in agriculture in these countries.

The UN Special Envoy emphasized that failure to control the spread of the virus can destabilize the political situation in the countries affected by it.

CONTROL OF GHANAIAN SEAPORTS

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has provided the Ghanaian health service with 8,000 posters with information about the Ebola virus and 20,000 health declaration forms for use at the main checkpoints to the country6.

At the end of January this year, the head of the YUM mission in Ghana, gender specialist Silvia Lopez-Ekra, held a two-day seminar on Ebola virus prevention and control for the border control managers of the Ghanaian seaports of Tema and Takoradi.

The workshop, which was also attended by the heads of the health authorities of the sea harbors, the Migration Service, as well as the Customs Division of the Tax Office of Ghana, discussed issues of strengthening the human capacity of personnel at various checkpoints, in particular, how to improve the effectiveness of checking for the presence of Ebola virus.

The purpose of the workshop, according to the head of the YUM mission, was to develop measures that should prevent the further spread of the virus to other countries, including Ghana.

Silvia Lopez-Ekra praised the video monitoring and surveillance systems operating at the country's border and other checkpoints, but said that much more needs to be done to improve the productivity of various organizations to prevent the virus from entering Ghanaian territory.

"I believe that coordination between agencies is at different levels.

page 42

security checkpoints should be improved. It is important that they have a clear order of actions, which is brought to automatism. Therefore, in the event of an emergency, all services will act in accordance with the established standards, " the head of the IOM mission emphasized.

EBOLA HITS GHANA'S TOURISM INDUSTRY

Ghanaian travel companies have seen a sharp decline in financial support for their businesses from foreign investors due to the threat of Ebola spreading in the West African sub-region7.

The President of the Ghana Tourism Federation (GHATOF), David Anim, stated that although no cases of infection have been recorded in Ghana, hotel reservations in hotels and on Internet sites have decreased by half compared to the same period last year.

According to him, the threat of a deadly disease has destroyed the tourism industry. The current members of GHATOF are driven to a state of despair. In addition, the international community has recognized West Africa as an Ebola zone.

David Anim called on all stakeholders to strengthen Ghana's health and safety system in order to attract private foreign investment in the country to support the development of national tourism and stimulate economic growth.

Cape Castle Castle is a clear example of the decline in tourist activity. Over the past year, its territory was visited by 1.6 million visitors. foreigners, compared to 2.13 million in 2013.8

According to Marc Amignot-Xa, assistant to the head of the castle administration, due to the threat of the spread of the Ebola virus, many tour operators have canceled already booked excursions, and many foreigners have been denied a visa.

The number of domestic tourists also decreased from 6.6 million (2013) to 5.25 million (2014). He attributed this decline to the lack of interest in the tourism sector on the part of the local population.

AN EXPERIMENTAL VACCINE IS BEING TESTED IN LIBERIA

The first large-scale trials of two experimental Ebola vaccines have begun in Liberia.9

Potential means of preventing the disease were placed under heavy security in a secret location on the territory of this republic.

Scientists aim to attract about 30 thousand volunteers, including medical workers who carry out their activities in the area of infection spread.

The trial of potential Ebola vaccines, which began on February 1, involved injecting 12 volunteers with a small fraction of the virus to trick the body into developing immunity. Most of the participants in the experiment will not be susceptible to infection, because the effect of the drug will progress.

However, it remains unclear whether the vaccines, once tested, will be able to provide protection against the virus.

Vaccines strengthen the immune systems of physically healthy people to fight off any infection in the future. As a rule, they contain a live but weak fraction of the virus.

According to journalists, the trial uses two vaccines created by two different pharmaceutical companies, which hope that the international community will eventually accumulate a sufficient number of effective vaccines.

According to the BBC, the first person to receive the vaccine was a middle-aged Liberian man living in Monrovia, Liberia. Answering a question from reporters after the injection, he just smiled and made a gesture with his thumb raised up.

A senior researcher, Liberian Stefan Kennedy, who took part in the vaccine trial, said that the volunteers ' lives are not in danger.

There is no danger, because the type of particle of the Ebola virus "Zaire" (Zaire ebolavirus was isolated in the Ebola river basin in Zaire, which gave the virus its name) was in the vaccine in small quantities, and it can not cause a fatal disease. According to S. Kennedy, it is impossible for any of the volunteers to get Ebola through the vaccine.

ABOUT THE EBOLA VIRUS MUTATION

Scientists at the Pasteur Institute, a French private nonprofit that monitors the spread of the Ebola virus in Guinea, are investigating whether the deadly disease can become more contagious.10

Researchers are analyzing hundreds of blood samples taken from infected patients in Guinea. They monitor how the virus changes its structure, and try to determine whether it can be transmitted even more freely from one patient to another.

"We know that the virus changes quite often," said human geneticist Dr. Anawaj Sakuntabhai. "We fear that it may become less deadly, but more contagious," he added.

"We need to know how the virus is changing in order to continue to fight it further. This is important for the diagnosis of new cases of the disease and treatment, " the specialist is sure.

According to Anawaj Sakuntabhai, viruses are not common in the world.-

page 43

but change over a certain period of time. Ebola is a retrovirus (RNA virus), like HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus - HIV) and influenza, that has a high mutation rate, which allows it to adapt quickly in the body and increases its ability to become more contagious.

"Currently, we are monitoring several patients who do not have symptoms of a fatal disease, in other words, we have encountered asymptomatic cases. So far, we cannot say with certainty that these people, unlike others, spread the virus faster, " the expert stated.

The professor, a virologist at The University of Nottingham, said: "It is not yet clear whether there will be a greater number of patients without symptoms in the current Ebola virus outbreak than in previous outbreaks."

"We know that asymptomatic infections do occur, but whether we can see an increase in the number of cases in the current fever outbreak is still difficult to determine," he said.

Another common issue that needs to be addressed. While the Ebola virus has more time and more host organisms to develop, will it be able to mutate and spread by air?

So far, there is no reason to believe that such a development is possible. The virus is still transmitted from person to person through close contact through damaged skin or mucous membranes with the blood and secretions of infected people.

"Currently, not enough has been done in terms of the evolution of the virus, so we need to learn more. But something tells me that mutation of a deadly disease is possible." This confidence was expressed by virologist of the Pasteur Institute Noel Tordo. In his opinion, the method of transmission of infection remains the same, it is necessary to avoid close contact with an infected person: "As a scientist, you cannot predict that the virus will not mutate. Anything is possible."

Researchers are using a genetic sequencing technique to track changes in the genetic structure of the virus. So far, they have analyzed 20 blood samples from infected people in Guinea. The remaining 600 will be sent to laboratories in the coming months.

According to WHO, a previous similar study in Sierra Leone showed that the Ebola virus mutated significantly in the first 24 days of the new year. Of course, there are many scientific questions related to the transmission of the virus from one person to another, its response to vaccines and medications, and the use of blood plasma from a recovering person. Be that as it may, many gene mutations may have no effect on how the virus reacts to drugs or behaves in the human environment.

A scientific study in Paris will help scientists get to the heart of the problem: why do some people infected with Ebola survive, while others do not? The survival rate for the current fever outbreak is about 40%.

Immunologist, Professor James Di Santo explains the scientific work carried out by the staff of the Pasteur Institute and related to the search for a vaccine against the deadly virus: "Currently, scientists are developing two vaccines that they hope will be tested in humans by the end of this year. One of them is a genetically modified form of measles, in which people get a weak and harmless particle of the virus, which, in turn, causes an immune response of the human body."

If the vaccine is tested successfully, it can simultaneously protect the human body from measles and Ebola. "We are witnessing a threat that can have an impressive size and spread on a global scale," says James Di Santo. "The current virus is not just a problem in Africa, it's a problem for everyone."

According to the professor, this outbreak of the deadly disease may weaken or disappear altogether. At any moment, we may encounter another equally dangerous virus, because living organisms in which the virus is hidden in nature, for example, in small animals, pose a threat to people in the future. Apparently, the best response is to carry out universal vaccination of the world's population.


1 New Ebola cases show first rise in 2015 // The Daily Graphic. 06.02.2015.

Appiah S. 2 OXFAM calls for support for Ebola-hit countries // The Daily Graphic. 25.01.2015.

3 ECOWAS seeks relief for Ebola-affected states // The Ghanaian Times. 02.02.2015.

Andoh D. 4 Ghana strengthens Ebola surveillance // The Daily Graphic. 16.01.2015.

Osare Boadu K. 5 Let's step up action against Ebola: ECOWAS // The Daily Graphic. 17.01.2015; Nuamah S. Ebola poses major threat // The Ghanaian Times. 17.07.2015.

Glover B.X. 6 IOM supports Ebola prevention effort // The Daily Graphic. 23.01.2015; Tetteh D. Ports staff train in Ebola prevention // The Ghanaian Times. 23.01.2015.

Aryeetey L., MadziJ. 7 Ebola scare affects tourism // The Ghanaian Times. 19.02.2015.

8 Ghana News Agency. Cape Coast Castle Revenue affected by Ebola scare // The Ghanaian Times. 25.02.2015.

9 First major Ebola vaccine trials begin in Liberia // The Daily Graphic. 02.02.2015.

10 Ebola virus mutating, scientists say // The Ghanaian Times. 30.01.2015; http://www.myjoyonline.com/world/2015/Ja nuary-29th/ebola-virus-mutating-scientists-warn.php


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