The World Health Organization (WHO) said Wednesday Sierra Leone and Guinea saw an increase in the number of Ebola cases during the week ending June 7.
The WHO said 16 new cases were found in Guinea, while 15 more were found in Sierra Leone.
Sierra Leone chief medical officer Dr. Brima Kargbo said the challenge facing his country is Ebola patients who escape quarantined homes to seek treatment from traditional herbalists, which he said only contributes to the further spread of the virus.
“[In] week 22 and 23, we saw an increase in the number of cases compared to week 20, 21, and I think week 19. We had, in week 19, about four cases, then week 20 about two, and week 21, about one case. Then, in week 22, we had nine cases and in week 23 we had 15 cases. So, that is why they say we are now seeing an increase in the number of new cases,” he said.
Kargbo said traditional practices continue to be an impediment to Sierra Leone’s attempt to control the further spread of the Ebola virus.
“The challenge that we have is that we continue to see people escaping from quarantined homes and move from Kambia to Port Loko and from Port Loko to the Western areas. For the past three or four days, we have seen an increasing number of cases in Port Loko and Kambia because people escaped from quarantined homes and they were taken to an herbalist. This is how the disease started spreading,” Kargbo said.
He said a traditional herbalist in Kambia usually goes out and collects native herbs and a source said one of the women left her quarantined home to seek treatment.
Kargbo said Sierra Leone knew all along that the road to being Ebola-free would be a bumpy one. But, he said, by continuing to use active case surveillance and contact tracing, Sierra Leone will, in the next few days, begin another countdown to 42 days, twice the maximum incubation period for the deadly disease.
“We have said several times that the road to zero is going to be bumpy. We are going to have cases here and there but, with the collective effort of our partners and through active case surveillance and contact tracing, I’m sure in the next few days we will be able to actually go again to start counting zero up to 42 days,” Kargbo said.
Since May 31 there have been 27,181 Ebola cases, mostly in West Africa, with 11,162 deaths, according to the United Nations.