An Outbreak of Ebola Virus Disease in the Lassa Fever Zone

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Abstract

Background. Kenema Government Hospital (KGH) has developed an advanced clinical and laboratory research capacity to manage the threat of Lassa fever, a viral hemorrhagic fever (VHF). The 2013–2016 Ebola virus (EBOV) disease (EVD) outbreak is the first to have occurred in an area close to a facility with established clinical and laboratory capacity for study of VHFs.

Methods. Because of its proximity to the epicenter of the EVD outbreak, which began in Guinea in March 2014, the KGH Lassa fever Team mobilized to establish EBOV surveillance and diagnostic capabilities.

Results. Augustine Goba, director of the KGH Lassa laboratory, diagnosed the first documented case of EVD in Sierra Leone, on 25 May 2014. Thereafter, KGH received and cared for numbers of patients with EVD that quickly overwhelmed the capacity for safe management. Numerous healthcare workers contracted and lost their lives to EVD. The vast majority of subsequent EVD cases in West Africa can be traced back to a single transmission chain that includes this first diagnosed case.

Conclusions. Responding to the challenges of confronting 2 hemorrhagic fever viruses will require continued investments in the development of countermeasures (vaccines, therapeutic agents, and diagnostic assays), infrastructure, and human resources.

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