The European Union is stepping up its efforts to contain the spread of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa and assist those affected by the deadly virus.

The Commission has increased its funding for immediate health operations, experts and risk assessments to ?1.1 million and is contributing with medical equipment to help accelerate diagnosis, a statement from the European Union Office in Ghana said on Monday

?Acting rapidly is crucial. We are reinforcing our support to partner organisations in Guinea and neighbouring countries to ensure urgently needed healthcare to those hit by the epidemic and to stop it from further expanding,? said Kristalina Georgieva, EU Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response.

EU Commissioner for Development, Andris Piebalgs, commented: ?The European Commission has been mobilising experts and equipment at short notice to provide quick help on the ground. Good coordination is key in the international response to this outbreak and this is why we are also setting up a network of EU and African health institutes to exchange know-how in tackling this terrible disease.?

Following a commitment of ?500 000 from last week, the Commission has increased its assistance to help the affected communities in Guinea and neighbouring countries to ?1.1 million.

The new funds will allow M?decins Sans Fronti?res to scale up the on-going interventions in the field of clinical management (such as the isolation of patients and psychosocial support), the tracing of suspected cases and the training and supply of personal protective equipment for health workers.

The statement also explained that the new funds wouldl support the World Health Organization (WHO) in ensuring the epidemiological surveillance and
providing medical supplies, equipment, transport logistics and health personnel.

Three humanitarian experts from the Commission have been sent to Conakry and Monrovia to monitor the situation on the ground and liaise with local authorities and partners.

Moreover, on 26 March six European specialists of the European Mobile Lab project (EMLab) for dangerous infectious diseases arrived in Gueckedou, Guinea, with a mobile laboratory unit. This consists of easily transportable equipment for high security virus manipulation packed in boxes.

It will substantially enhance the available capacity for rapid analyses of samples and confirmation of Ebola cases, reducing the number of undiagnosed cases and preventing the further spread of the disease, the statement said.

The EU is closely following the latest developments with its Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). This has just issued a second Rapid Risk Assessment stating that the risk for EU citizens travelling or living in the affected countries remains ?low?, and giving a series of recommendations on prevention.

This is the first Ebola virus outbreak registered in the region. It was publicly announced by the Guinean Government on 22 March, following French Institut Pasteur?s confirmed identification of Ebola virus in samples of cases initially thought to be Lassa fever, which is endemic to the region.

To date, 157 suspected cases including 101 deaths have been reported in Guinea and 21 suspected cases in Liberia, out of which 10 resulted lethal.

First discovered in DR Congo and Sudan in 1976, several outbreaks of this viral haemorrhagic fever have been reported in East and Central Africa, but not in West Africa.

Highly contagious, human to human transmission of Ebola occurs by simple contact with blood and body fluids. No vaccine or treatment is yet available for this pathogen, one of the world?s most lethal with a case fatality rate of up to 90% depending on the strain.

The EMLab project is an initiative funded by the European Commission. It includes partners from Germany, Italy, France, Hungary, Switzerland, Slovenia and the United Kingdom.

As part of the international response to the current Ebola outbreak in Guinea, WHO and its Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN) requested lab experts of the EMLab project to support the Ministry of Health of Guinea in viral haemorrhagic fever diagnostics.

The team of experts is composed of scientists from the Bernhard-Nocht-Institute for Tropical Medicine (Germany), the Bundeswehr Institute of Microbiology (Germany), the Istituto Nazionale per le Malattie Infettive L. Spallanzani (Italy) and the Laboratoire P4 ? INSERM Jean Merieux (France). They will be joined by four experts from Germany, France and Hungary on 15 April; another team will take over four weeks later. GNA


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