Date: Fri 27 Jul 2018
From: Tracey Goldstein <>, Simon Anthony
<> [edited]

A novel ebolavirus species has been identified in bats in Sierra Leone, providing the strongest evidence to date that bats are the natural hosts of these viruses. This is not the virus that caused the outbreak in West Africa from 2013-2016, which belongs to the species _Zaire ebolavirus_. The new virus, called Bombali virus (BOMV), was found in insectivorous bats (5 individuals; 2 species: _Chaerephon pumilus_ and _Mops condylurus_) roosting inside people's houses in the Bombali district of Sierra Leone. Based on laboratory experiments, researchers report that the virus has the potential to infect human cells -- but stress it is not known whether it has actually infected anyone or if it is pathogenic. The government of Sierra Leone and international partners are engaging local communities to convey what is known about the new virus, and how to live safely with bats. The discovery of the Bombali virus brings the known number of ebolavirus species to 6.

Bombali virus was discovered by UC [University of California] Davis (<>) working with Columbia University (<>), the Government of Sierra Leone, the University of Makeni, and Metabiota as part of the PREDICT Project (<>), funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

The role of bats in the environment
People should not attempt to kill or eradicate bats in response to this discovery. While bats have been implicated as reservoirs for a number of infectious pathogens, they play important roles as providers of ecosystem services through pollination of native and agricultural crops, reduction of insect pests that also spread disease and damage crops, and consumption of mosquitoes and other pests that feed on people and livestock.

Killing or disturbing bats in their natural habitat could actually increase the risk of transmission of this new virus, as has been seen in studies of Marburg and rabies viruses. Engagement with local communities has occurred throughout the project and meetings with communities to share plans and answer questions about Bombali virus and how to reduce the risk of exposure to the virus are ongoing.
Dr Tracey Goldstein
One Health Institute
School of Veterinary Medicine
University of California Davis
Dr Simon Anthony
Center for infection and Immunity
Mailman School of Public Health
Columbia University
Date: Fri 15 Jun 2018,
Source: WHO Regional Office for Africa, Sierra Leone MOH [edited]

The Ministry of Health and Sanitation today [15 Jun 2018] declared a measles outbreak in Falaba [Koinadugu] district in the remote northern part of Sierra Leone. There have been a total of 19 [24 in other reports - Mod.LK] confirmed cases this week in the Chiefdoms of Sulima (14 cases) and Mongo (5 cases) [Koinadugu district], close to the border with Guinea.

A measles outbreak is defined as 3 or more laboratory confirmed cases in a community or district in 1 month.

"We are doing everything in our power to bring this outbreak under control, with teams already on the ground leading the response," said Dr. Brima Kargbo, Chief Medical Officer at the Ministry of Health and Sanitation. "Given the location of the affected communities, we are working with our counterparts in Guinea to ensure continued collaboration on measles vaccination efforts, community engagement and surveillance."

"While we are planning an emergency vaccination campaign within Koinadugu, we want to encourage all caregivers everywhere in the country to ensure children aged under 2 years have received their 2 doses of the measles marklate [vaccine], which provides lasting protection against the disease," said Dr Kargbo. "Vaccination is the only reliable way to ensure your child is protected against this life-threatening illness, which can be devastating in its effects."

With support from WHO, MSF, UNICEF, UK Aid, and other partners, the response to the recent cases will include a targeted vaccination campaign for children in affected and most at-risk areas in Koinadugu district, cross-border collaboration and community engagement, contact-tracing and enhanced surveillance for suspected measles cases. Parents and caregivers are also being reminded to ensure their children's routine vaccines are up to date.

"Across the country, vaccination uptake has recovered following the Ebola outbreak," said Dr Kargbo. "However there are still areas where vaccination coverage is sub-optimal, especially in communities that are very remote and where populations are mobile and travelling across borders. This will require concerted efforts not only from our health workers but also caregivers, communities, local authorities and health partners to ensure that every child, everywhere is reached with their necessary vaccines."

The Koinadugu vaccine campaign is expected to start within the next 2 weeks.

This is a press release from the Ministry of Health and Sanitation and WHO.
[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map of Falaba, Northern Province, Sierra Leone:
Date: Tue 5 Jun 2018
Source: Awoke [edited]

The surveillance supervisor of the Lassa Fever Unit at the government hospital in Kenema, Lansana Kanneh, said the rate of Lassa fever infection in the Kenema district is increasing at an alarming rate. In 2017, in Kenema District, the Lassa Fever Unit recorded 17 cases and 11 died. From January to May 2018, 18 cases have been recorded and 7 have died. He said the unit is expecting more cases.

Kanneh attributed the high rate of death to delayed arrival at the hospital. He said people continue to self-medicate, visit "quack" doctors or engage in traditional remedies, and they arrive at the hospital half dead. Kanneh said lassa fever is an infectious disease that can affect anyone, all tribes, old and young, male and female. The disease is caused by a small germ, invisible to the naked eye, called the Lassa virus. Like other diseases, Lassa fever can present differently; some people will become slightly ill but others will die from the disease.

Lassa fever was discovered in Sierra Leone in 1972 in Panguma in the Lower Bambara chiefdom, Kenema district. It has been discovered in other parts of the country including Koinadugu, Tonkolili and Bombali districts with the exception of Western Area. Presently, it is prevalent in Dodo, Nongowa and Lower Bambara chiefdoms.

Lassa fever is spread by rats and you can also get Lassa fever from someone who already has the disease or someone who has recently had the disease. "You can get Lassa fever if you leave your food or water uncovered, so a rat can urinate [or defaecate] in it, and then you eat this food," he said.

Lassa fever can be prevented by keeping your compound clean and clear of bush to deter rats. Dispose of garbage correctly, away from the house. Do not leave food lying on the floor. Keep food and water covered to prevent contamination by rats. Trap rats, but do not touch dead rats with your bare hands. Use a shovel, stick or plastic. Keep a cat at home to keep away rats.  [byline: Saffa B Moriba]
[Lassa fever virus (LFV) is endemic in West Africa, but ProMED-mail has not posted reports of cases in Sierra Leone since 2013. However, the above report indicates that the incidence is accelerating, from 17 cases with 11 deaths to 18 cases and 7 deaths so far this year (2018). It is not clear how these unfortunate victims acquired their LFV infections in the hospital or elsewhere, probably from environments contaminated by the rodent reservoir hosts (the multimammate mouse (_Mastomys ntalensis_ and _M. erythroleucus_) and the African wood mouse (_Hylomycus pamfi_).

LFV infections are usually not fatal; some 80 per cent of human infections are asymptomatic. Non-fatal cases may have severe multisystem disease, where the virus affects several organs such as the liver, spleen, and kidneys. The incubation period of Lassa fever ranges from 6-21 days. More detailed information can be accessed at <>.

Images of the _Mastomys natalensis_ mouse, the rodent reservoir of Lassa fever virus, can be seen at
<> and _M. erythroleucus and _Hylomycus pamfi_ at:
- ProMED Mod.TY]

[A map of Sierra Leone is available at

Half a million people in Sierra Leone will be able to access the life-saving cholera vaccine within weeks, the country’s Ministry of Health and Sanitation announced on Tuesday.

The vaccines will be received from the Gavi-funded global stockpile and will target areas particularly affected by August’s floods and deadly landslide, which resulted in over 500 confirmed deaths. Hundreds more people were reported missing in the wake of the disaster, according to the Office of National Security, while thousands were displaced from their homes.

“Cholera is a devastating disease which spreads quickly and kills fast, and risks can increase after severe flooding,” said Dr. Brima Kargbo, Chief Medical Officer at the Ministry of Health and Sanitation. “The oral cholera vaccine is an important tool to better protect the country and affected communities against the disease, which will ultimately save lives.”

Two rounds of vaccination are planned to run from September and will be delivered in 25 affected communities by the Government of Sierra Leone with support from Gavi Alliance, the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF, the UK Government and other health partners.

“The devastating floods and landslides which ravaged Sierra Leone throughout August have left the country dangerously vulnerable to water-borne disease outbreaks,” said Dr. Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi Alliance. “Access to safe water and sanitation is limited, and the public health system, still recovering after the 2014 Ebola outbreak, is stretched. These lifesaving vaccines, alongside urgent support to improve safe water and sanitation, have the potential to prevent a cholera outbreak before it has the chance to bring more misery to a country that has already suffered enough.”

The decision to send cholera vaccines from the global stockpile was taken quickly on 31th August by the International Coordinating Group (ICG) for Vaccine Provision following the deployment of a WHO specialist to the country. The full quantity of the vaccine (1,036,300 doses for two rounds) is set to arrive in Freetown on 7th September through UNICEF’s global Supply Division.

WHO recommends that vaccination against cholera be considered in emergencies and other high-risk scenarios where there are increased threats of outbreaks, when combined with standard prevention and control measures for the disease. These measures include readiness to provide adequate testing and treatment, steps to ensure access to safe water and sanitation, and community mobilization to engage the public in preventing infection.

Sierra Leone’s last major cholera outbreak, in 2012, killed 392 people and infected more than 25,000 others.

Gavi, WHO, UNICEF and partners are working with the Ministry of Health and Sanitation to help plan and implement the campaign, which will make the vaccine available free-of-cost to disaster-affected populations, while supporting ongoing cholera prevention and preparedness.
Date: Thu, 24 Aug 2017 18:23:08 +0200

Freetown, Aug 24, 2017 (AFP) - The death toll from the flood and mudslide disaster that struck Sierra Leone's capital in mid-August now exceeds 500 and 810 people are listed as missing, the government said Thursday.   "The death toll has risen slightly above 500," Vice President Victor Bockarie Foh said at a ceremony to receive relief supplies provided by Japan.   Separately, government spokesman Abdulai Bayratay said 810 people were listed as missing, a figure that concurs with estimates by NGOs in the past few days.

The city of Freetown -- capital of one of the world's poorest countries -- was struck by devastating floods and a mudslide on the night of August 13-14.   The previous toll, given by the city's central morgue, stood at 499 dead, 156 of them children.   Vandy Rogers, a senior official with the country's national emergency services, said the number of people who had been "directly affected" by the disaster was around 6,000.

On Tuesday, the authorities warned tourists and locals against swimming in Freetown's waters after 60 bodies washed up.   Baratay said soldiers, supported by forensic experts from Spain, would continue to search for those missing, "as most families want bodies of their loved ones (to) be evacuated and given a dignified burial."   The location of the mudslide would later be turned into a memorial, he said.   The disaster was preceded by torrential rain that saturated the soil and left vulnerable slopes liable to collapse, the interim head of the Sierra Leone Institution of Geoscientists, Solomon Tucker, said.
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