The cases marked the first known resurgence of Ebola in West Africa since a 2013-2016 epidemic that began in Guinea and killed more than 11,300 people across the region.

Liberians wash their hands next to an Ebola information and sanitation station, raising awareness about the virus in Monrovia, Liberia, September 30, 2014.
Liberians wash their hands next to an Ebola information and sanitation station, raising awareness about the virus in Monrovia, Liberia, September 30, 2014. (AFP)

A top Guinea health official has said that the country has plunged into an Ebola "epidemic situation" with seven cases confirmed in the West African nation, including three deaths.

"Very early this morning, the Conakry laboratory confirmed the presence of the Ebola virus," Sakoba Keita said after an emergency meeting in the capital.

Health Minister Remy Lamah had earlier spoken of four deaths. It was not immediately clear why the new toll was lower.

The cases marked the first known resurgence of Ebola in West Africa since a 2013-2016 epidemic that began in Guinea and killed more than 11,300 people across the region.

The virus was first identified in 1976 in Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo).

One of the latest victims in Guinea was a nurse who fell ill in late January and was buried on February 1, National Health Security Agency head Sakoba Keita told local media.

"Among those who took part in the burial, eight people showed symptoms: Guinea sees first Ebola deaths since 2016, vomiting and bleeding," he said. 

"Three of them died and four others are in hospital."

The four deaths from Ebola hemorrhagic fever occurred in the southeast region of Nzerekore, he said.

Keita also told local media that one patient had "escaped" but had been found and hospitalised in the capital Conakry. He confirmed the comments to AFP without giving further detail.

Samples tested by a laboratory set up by the European Union in Gueckedou, located in the same region, revealed the presence of the Ebola virus in some of them on Friday, said Keita.

He added that with a total of seven cases and three deaths, Guinea was now in an "Ebola epidemic situation."

READ MORE: Congo's dilemma: From Ebola to Covid-19 and back

WHO on 'full alert'

WHO representative Alfred George Ki-Zerbo told a press briefing: "We are going to rapidly deploy crucial assets to help Guinea, which already has considerable experience" treating the disease.

"The arsenal is stronger now and we will take advantage of that to contain this situation as fast as possible.

"The WHO is on full alert and is in contact with the manufacturer (of a vaccine) to ensure the necessary doses are made available as quickly as possible to help fight back," he added.

The WHO has eyed each new Ebola outbreak since 2016 with great concern, treating the most recent one in the Democratic Republic of Congo as an international health emergency.

On Sunday, the Democratic Republic of Congo confirmed a fourth case of Ebola in North Kivu province where a resurgence of the virus was announced on February 7, provincial health minister Eugene Nzanzu Salita said.

In Guinea's neighbour Liberia, President George Weah put the country's health authorities on heightened alert on Sunday.

Weah "has mandated the Liberian health authorities and related stakeholders in the sector to heighten the country's surveillance and preventative activities," his office said in a statement.

No cases of Ebola had been detected in Liberia so far however, it added.

"The president's instruction is intended to ensure Liberia acts proactively to avoid any epidemic situation, the kind Liberia witnessed in 2014."

Weah also told health authorities "to immediately engage communities in towns and villages bordering Guinea and increase anti-Ebola measures," the statement said.

DR Congo has faced several outbreak of the illness, with the WHO on Thursday confirming a resurgence three months after authorities declared the end of the country's latest outbreak.

The country had declared the six-month epidemic over in November. It was the country's eleventh Ebola outbreak, claiming 55 lives out of 130 cases.

The widespread use of vaccinations, which were administered to more than 40,000 people, helped curb the disease there, however.

The 2013-2016 outbreak sped up the development of a vaccine against Ebola, with a global emergency stockpile of 500,000 doses planned to respond quickly to future outbreaks, the vaccine alliance Gavi said in January.

READ MORE: Regeneron's drug becomes first FDA-approved Ebola virus treatment

Source: TRTWorld and agencies