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Disease Outbreaks in Africa Lead to Change at Johns Hopkins
Recent outbreaks around the world of highly contagious infectious diseases have experts on high alert. CEPAR and Johns Hopkins Hospital Epidemiology and Infection Control are monitoring outbreaks of Ebola virus disease and Lassa fever in Africa.
At Johns Hopkins, travel screenings in Epic were updated in early June to trigger a best practice alert for any patient who reports recent travel (within the past 21 days) to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) or Nigeria and who also reports signs and symptoms that prompt further evaluation for possible exposure to viral hemorrhagic fevers, including Ebola and Lassa fever.
It is important to identify and isolate patients under investigation for viral hemorrhagic fever when they arrive at a Johns Hopkins hospital or facility and to inform the infection prevention staff, who will provide appropriate guidance and support to clinical teams.
Since April, about 60 Ebola cases have surfaced in the DRC, including 28 deaths. The Ebola virus causes an acute, serious illness that is often fatal if untreated. There is currently no approved vaccine or treatment for Ebola—though a trial of an experimental vaccine is underway in DRC. New investigational medication for treatment is also being trialed in the country.
This is the ninth outbreak of Ebola virus disease over the last four decades in DRC, with the most recent occurring in May 2017. West Africa experienced the largest recorded outbreak of Ebola over a two-year period beginning in 2014, with nearly 30,000 cases of confirmed, probable and suspected cases reported in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, and more than 11,000 deaths.
Nigeria has also recently experienced ongoing transmission of Lassa fever, an acute viral illness that occurs in West Africa and can also be deadly. Since January, more than 1,800 suspected cases have been reported, including 114 deaths. The outbreak is continuing, even though the number of cases and deaths are decreasing. According to the World Health Organization, this is the worst Lassa fever outbreak ever recorded in Nigeria.