March 23 marks one year since the World Health Organization declared an Ebola outbreak in Guinea.
More than a year after the first Ebola case was discovered in southeastern Guinea’s forest region, the number of new reported cases continues to increase.
The World Health Organization (WHO) says there have now been more than 3,400 cases in Guinea since the outbreak began, and nearly 25,000 overall in West Africa.
The WHO says the week ending March 15 saw 95 new cases in Guinea, the highest weekly number since the end of last year.
"Today, it is resistance that is preventing our teams from progressing and taking charge of this virus, so Ebola continues," said Fode Tasse Sylla, a spokesperson with Guinea’s national coordination unit for the fight against Ebola. " ... it is no longer difficult to stop the outbreak." He adds everyone needs to come together and each person must take responsibility to defend Guinea from an enemy that is touching everyone.
Social mobilization teams have been traversing the country for months, going door-to-door to spread messages about modes of transmission and prevention measures. Similar messages have been aired on the radio and TV, as well as on billboards throughout towns and cities.
Despite some people taking heed, many continue to engage in risky behaviors, such as touching and washing the bodies of their sick loved ones, hiding suspected Ebola cases from health workers, and sticking to unsafe burial practices.
Guinea is now equipped logistically to handle the outbreak. But even having the best response measures in place will only work if people trust them.
“Today it is not a matter of beds or teams deployed or patient care or contact tracing," Jerome Mouton, head of missions in Guinea for Doctors Without Borders told VOA. "Even if none of this is really perfect, at least it is there. To fight against the resistance of the population it really takes going door to door, to contact people using members from the community, using people that they know already and that they trust.”
Alhoussane Makanera Kake, Guinea’s Minister of Communication, said Guinea has put in place communication strategies and social mobilization teams, because those factors contribute to putting a stop to Ebola. But he says customs, traditions, and conduct constitute the main reasons why there is still a chain of transmission.
"The president has said it is easier to go from 100 cases to 10, than it is to get from 10 cases to zero, but Guinea still needs to follow the path to eradication," he said.
Authorities in Guinea say they will prosecute anyone who is found hiding a possible Ebola case or anyone sick who is caught traveling to another part of the country without papers proving they are Ebola negative.