Lessons learned from the final Ebola outbreak in Guinea

Lessons learned from the final Ebola outbreak in Guinea

In mid-March of 2016, I was a new field epidemiologist working in the West African country of Guinea. The Ebola epidemic seemed to be over: We were just 11 days away from being Ebola-free for 90 days, which would mark the official end of the country’s epidemic. Then field coordinator Dr. Angelo Loua walked into our small World Health Organization field office in the southeast region of N’zerekore and announced that an 8-year-old girl had just tested positive for Ebola.

Please pray for us, it’s Ebola,” I texted my friends and family with confirmation of my worst fears. 

In most accounts of the Ebola outbreak, Guinea’s experience is overlooked. Yet it was in Guinea in March 2014 that that the plague began, gripping seven of its eight regions, and from where it spread to Liberia and Sierra Leone. Ebola infected more than 28,000 people and killed more than 11,000 before it was declared over on June 9, 2016.

By early spring of 2016, most of the international organizations that had mobilized to fight the Ebola pandemic had called home their workers. Our field team managed to grow quickly from fewer than 20 staffers to more than 100, including local Guineans and international responders such as my teammates from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most of the responders had worked in the region throughout the three-year outbreak. I was fresh out of grad school, completely frightened but ready to help.

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