There were so many opportunities for the Ebola virus to invade Guinea-Bissau. A farmer unknowingly carrying the disease could come in undetected from neighboring Guinea to tend his crops. An infected trader could arrive by bus from Senegal to the north to sell his wares in the capital. A fishermen from Sierra Leone with symptoms could dock on the islands just off the coast unbeknownst.
Yet the virus never came.
Even as Ebola hop-scotched its way across West Africa, from the hilly streets of Freetown to the forests of Guinea, it miraculously never infiltrated Guinea-Bissau. It is especially remarkable when you consider how Mali, Nigeria, and Senegal all had cases of Ebola as a result of people traveling from the neighboring countries ravished by Ebola, but Guinea-Bissau has never seen a single case.
The country may have dodged a bullet so far, but it is still very much at-risk of the virus. A tiny, impoverished nation of just 1.7 million people, Guinea-Bissau in many ways was the perfect breeding ground for the virus to flourish. It shares a porous land border with Guinea, the likely source of the Ebola epidemic and its islands and coastline are commonly visited, with little official border control, by fishermen from Guinea and Senegal; Guinea-Bissau suffered many years of civil war that stunted the country’s development; and its health system is underfunded and weak, particularly in rural areas where Ebola would likely first appear. It is for these reasons that Guinea-Bissau is one of the World Health Organization’s four highest priority countries for Ebola preparedness efforts.
Starting in April 2015, International Medical Corps began working in Guinea-Bissau to help the national health system prepare to quickly and safely respond to an Ebola outbreak. Drawing on experience gained by treating Ebola patients in five facilities in Liberia and Sierra Leone, International Medical Corps has been training health workers and other professionals in Ebola case management, from identifying the symptoms to infection prevention and control and treatment.
Read the full article here