A senior WHO official said genetic analysis of the current Ebola virus outbreak in Guinea indicates that it may have been caused by a survivor of the devastating outbreak in West Africa that ended five years ago.
During a press conference in Geneva, WHO Chief of Emergencies Dr. Michael Ryan described the genetic sequencing results of the virus in Guinea as “very impressive”.
African and German scientists published their results on the virology website on Friday, concluding that the current virus, which is infecting people with the disease in Guinea, is very similar to the one that started the large-scale outbreak in West Africa.
“More studies will be needed,” Ryan said. But he added that based on available genetic sequence data, it is unlikely that the current outbreak is related to animals, which has started in nearly all previous outbreaks. “[Ceci] It is most likely related to perseverance [du virus] Or the latency of infection in humans. ”Ryan said this will likely be the longest period the virus has lasted between outbreaks.
Scientists previously documented survivors who inadvertently infected others long after they recovered, but these rare cases did not cause epidemics. In 2018, doctors published a study on a Liberian woman who likely contracted Ebola in 2014, but infected three of her loved ones about a year later.
Health officials have also warned that men can sometimes transmit the infection to other people through sexual activity long after they have recovered – the virus can remain in the semen for more than a year.
The rare possibility of spreading long after an injury highlights the importance of monitoring survivors, and Ryan warned of the stigma they face. He said the vast majority of people with the disease clear the virus from their systems and recover within six months.
Ryan said that a small percentage of people end up pregnant with the virus but are not contagious to others “except in very special circumstances.”
He said that there are 18 cases of Ebola virus infection in Guinea so far and that the World Health Organization has sent more than 30,000 doses of the vaccine to the country.