Sunday August 25, 2019

CDC Sends Staffers to Democratic Republic of Congo Border City to Manage Ebola Cases There

The agency indicated it would send more staffers if armed conflict in the northeastern region subsided

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Congolese people walk near the gate barriers at the border crossing point with Rwanda following its closure over Ebola threat in Goma. VOA

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday a dozen staffers had been sent to a Democratic Republic of Congo border city to manage Ebola cases there. The outbreak, which began a year ago Thursday, has now killed more than 1,800 people. The agency indicated it would send more staffers if armed conflict in the northeastern region subsided to safer levels.

Twelve CDC employees will go to Goma, a major transit city near the Congolese border with Rwanda. On Thursday, the city confirmed its third case of Ebola.

CDC Director Dr. Robert R. Redfield said Thursday on Twitter that armed conflict was hampering health officials’ attempts to manage the outbreak, “increas[ing] the risk of disease spread.”

Henry Walke, CDC director of preparedness and emerging infections, said the agency could add more staff if safety improves enough. The CDC said it is working with the U.S. State Department to determine if it is safe to send more U.S. health workers to areas outside Goma.

CDC, Ebola, Staffers

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday a dozen staffers had been sent to a Democratic Republic of Congo border city to manage Ebola cases there. VOA

The announcement came hours after Rwanda briefly closed the border it shares with the Congo over fears the disease would spread.

Witnesses told VOA that authorities prevented most people from crossing between the Rwandan city of Gisenyi and Goma for several hours, after the Ebola virus was detected in Goma. The only people allowed to cross were Congolese nationals in Rwanda returning home.

Rwanda’s ministry of health denied the border was ever closed, and by Thursday afternoon people were crossing between the cities again.

Congolese health officials said the 1-year-old daughter of a man who died of the virus earlier this week is showing symptoms of the disease, in the city’s third confirmed Ebola case. The man was diagnosed a few days after arriving in Goma from a northeastern rural community in Congo’s Ituri province.

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Emergency declared

Earlier this month, a pastor tested positive and later died after arriving in Goma by bus, prompting the World Health Organization (WHO) to declare the Ebola outbreak in Ituri and the conflict-ridden North Kivu province a global health emergency.

The brief shutdown ran counter to a plea made by the international health officials for countries not to close their borders or impose restrictions on travel to the DRC.

WHO spokeswoman Dr. Margaret Harris said Thursday it is vital that more people who are at risk receive the vaccine used to combat the spread of the virus.  She said the vast majority of such people accept the vaccine, but to be effective, “we really need 100 percent acceptance.”

CDC, Ebola, Staffers
The outbreak, which began a year ago Thursday, has now killed more than 1,800 people. VOA

Harris said health officials also struggle to identify those who “hide” and “flee” to avoid “being identified as a high risk contact.” She said many of them “think that being taken to the Ebola treatment center is like being taken to the death house” when the centers actually provide “an incredibly high standard of care.”

Harris said if people experiencing early symptoms such as fevers and headaches report to a center in a timely fashion, there is a “90 percent chance of survival.”

2,600 cases of Ebola

More than than 2,600 cases of Ebola have been reported in Congo since the current outbreak began a year ago, with a death rate of nearly 70 percent.

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This is the 10th outbreak of the virus over the last four decades in the DRC.  It is the second largest outbreak after the historically deadly 2014 epidemic in West Africa that killed more than 11,300 people. (VOA)

Next Story

Deadly Ebola Virus Spreads to New Areas in Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo

The World Health Organization said Friday that the deadly Ebola virus had spread to new areas in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo

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Ebola, Virus, DRC
FILE - An ambulance waits next to a clinic to transport a suspected Ebola patient, in Goma, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Aug. 5, 2019. VOA

The World Health Organization said Friday that the deadly Ebola virus had spread to new areas in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. The number of cases was 2,934, including 1,965 deaths, it said.

Since mid-June, the WHO has reported an average of 80 new Ebola cases every week. It said, though, that these numbers have been falling in recent weeks.

Michael Ryan, executive director of WHO’s Health Emergencies Program, said two new health zones, Mwenga in South Kivu and Pinga in North Kivu, had reported cases in the past week, and that the risk of further spread remained high.

“The geographic extension of the virus has increased while the intensity of transmission has reduced in that time,” he said. “So we are winning against the virus in the intense transmission areas, but still failing to prevent the further extension of the virus into other areas before the disease is properly extinguished.”

Ebola, Virus, DRC
The World Health Organization said Friday that the deadly Ebola virus had spread to new areas in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. Pixabay

Ryan noted progress in containing the disease was being made in some areas. He said some powerful tools were being put to good use in tackling the disease. He said a vaccine now is available that is protecting people from becoming infected, which wasn’t the case in previous outbreaks.  Also, two new therapeutics are successfully saving the lives of people with Ebola who seek early treatment.

Community mistrust

But Ryan said pockets of community mistrust continued to hinder efforts to stop the epidemic. He said negative social media campaigns that have spread false information were creating difficulties in gaining community confidence.

He said, for instance, that some messages have said the vaccine is used to infect people, not protect them, and treatments are used to finish victims off.  “And there are WhatsApp groups and many social media conversations that are going on at that level,” he said. “And populations, like in every country in the world, are exposed to both the positive and negative media around any intervention like this.”

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Ryan said WHO must be smarter, quicker and more effective in getting communities to hear its messages about pathways to good health. He said the way to counter bad information is not by blocking it, but by putting out good information. Then, he said, it is up to the communities to choose the messages they believe will best ensure their own future. (VOA)