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    Sierra Leone heads off Ebola threat with shots

    By EDITH MUTETHYA in Nairobi, Kenya | China Daily | Updated: 2021-08-25 10:00
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    Sierra Leone began giving out booster doses of an Ebola vaccine on Monday as authorities race to respond to outbreaks of the deadly disease in neighboring countries.

    "With the recent resurgence of the Ebola virus disease in Guinea and in Cote d'Ivoire, there is a high risk of outbreaks in Sierra Leone and other neighboring countries because of the movement of people across borders and other ecological factors," said Steven V. Shongwe, the World Health Organization's representative in Sierra Leone, in a statement on Monday. "Sustained preventive interventions therefore remain critically important."

    The prime round of vaccinations was carried out in May after the virus reemerged in Guinea in mid-February.

    One Ebola case was confirmed in Cote d'Ivoire this month, with no deaths. It was the first report of Ebola infection in the West African country in almost 30 years. Six high-risk contacts of the infected person have been quarantined and 131 contacts listed, according to the WHO. Dozens of contacts have also been listed in Guinea, which is working with Cote d'Ivoire on investigations into the outbreak.

    Guinea has also had to contend with Marburg, an infectious disease with similar causes and risk factors as Ebola. The disease killed one person in the country this month.

    In June Guinea declared an end to the Ebola outbreak earlier this year, after 12 deaths.

    The lone case of Marburg disease was the first reported in West Africa. Some 173 contacts of the infected person have been identified.

    The boosters of the Ebola vaccine in Sierra Leone are going to more than 16,000 people including health workers and high-risk groups in border communities. The vaccine was developed by Johnson & Johnson.

    Health workers who had not received a first dose of the vaccine will also have an opportunity to be vaccinated; second doses will be given six weeks later.

    "Efforts by the government to protect health workers and other high-risk groups are highly commendable and we will continue to support the government's preparedness and readiness interventions to ensure that the system remains vigilant and fully function to prevent, detect and respond to any public health events early and robustly," Shongwe said.

    Sierra Leone was among the West African countries hit badly by an Ebola outbreak in 2014-16.

    That outbreak, which started in Guinea and spread to Sierra Leone and Liberia before engulfing seven more countries, was the largest since the virus was discovered.

    The WHO said it is providing technical and operational support to Sierra Leone's Ministry of Health and Sanitation to enable intensified public health surveillance in relation to threats from Ebola and Marburg.

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