Thursday February 21, 2019

Congo’s New Ebola Outbreak Is A Great Risk: WHO

WHO reports four of six suspected cases of Ebola have been confirmed in and around Mangina, a town of about 60,000 people in North Kivu.

0
//
Ebola, mother
Ebola Virus. Wikimedia Commons

Preparations are being made to send thousands of Ebola vaccines next week to North Kivu, the site of the latest outbreak of this deadly disease.

The World Health Organization says it foresees huge difficulties ahead in efforts to combat the latest Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

North Kivu province, the site of the new outbreak, has been riven with ethnic and political clashes for at least two decades.

WHO’s emergency response chief, Peter Salama, said the operation getting under way in North Kivu will be much more difficult and complex than past Ebola response efforts.

A view of a refugee camp situated in between a school and a Catholic church in Kiwanja, Rutshuru town, North Kivu on May 4, 2018. VOA
A view of a refugee camp situated in between a school and a Catholic church in Kiwanja, Rutshuru town, North Kivu on May 4, 2018. VOA

Salama was at the forefront of efforts to combat an Ebola outbreak this April in the DRC’s Equateur Province.

“On the scale of degree of difficulty, trying to extinguish an outbreak of a deadly high-threat pathogen in a war zone reaches the top of any of our scales,” he cautioned.

WHO reports four of six suspected cases of Ebola have been confirmed in and around Mangina, a town of about 60,000 people in North Kivu. Around 20 deaths have been reported. Salama, however, said the deaths have not yet been confirmed as Ebola cases.

He said laboratory tests indicate that this particular strain is Ebola Zaire, the same one as in Equateur Province. He added that more information will be forthcoming Tuesday when genetic sequencing results are known.

If confirmed, he said it will be possible to use the same vaccine that was used in Equateur. He told VOA that preparations are under way to deploy vaccines to the affected area next week.

Congo
North Kivu, A Province in Congo. VOA

The bad news, he cautioned, is that the Zaire strain carries the highest case fatality rate of any of the strains of Ebola — 50 percent or higher.

“The good news is that we do have, although it is still an investigational product, a safe and effective vaccine that we were able to deploy last time around,” he said. “But, remember last time around — and this is a critical point — we had really large-scale access despite all the logistical constraints to be able to do the contact tracing.”

Also Read: Common Plastic Chemical May Increase Breast Cancer Risk

Salama said security constraints will make moving around in North Kivu far more difficult. He said 3,000 doses of the vaccine that are in the capital, Kinshasa, can be deployed immediately and 300,000 additional doses can be mobilized at very short notice.

Ebola is a constant threat in the Democratic Republic of Congo as the virus thrives in heavily forested areas. The newest outbreak is the 10th since the first one was discovered in 1976. (VOA)

Next Story

WHO Makes Progress In Controlling Ebola In Congo

In addition, 2,600 health care workers in Uganda have been vaccinated.

0
Ebola, COngo
Health workers treat an unconfirmed Ebola patient inside a MSF (Doctors Without Borders)-supported Ebola Treatment Center (ETC) in Butembo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Nov. 3, 2018. VOA

Six months after the outbreak of Ebola was declared in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s North Kivu province, the World Health Organization is expressing cautious optimism that it is making headway in controlling the spread of the deadly virus.

Latest figures reported by the WHO show 752 cases of Ebola, including 465 deaths.

WHO Regional Director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti, says progress in containing the spread of the virus is due to a number of public health measures, including the training of health workers on infection prevention and control, closer engagement with communities, case investigation and contact tracing.

Ebola
Medical staff are sterilized before entering the isolation unit at a hospital in Bundibugyo, western Uganda, on Aug. 17, 2018, where there is one suspected case of Ebola. VOA

She says the use of a vaccine and promising new drugs have been a boon to these efforts.

“I feel optimistic,” Moeti said. “I am very clear that we need to continue this work. We need to make sure that in the places where we have made progress, we build on this progress and we do not go back. And, we are being very, very conscious of the fact that we need to invest to improve the preparedness both in the DRC areas that are highest at risk and, most importantly, in the surrounding countries that are at risk.”

Ebola, mother
Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) workers talk to a worker at an isolation facility, prepared to receive suspected Ebola cases, at the Mbandaka General Hospital, in Mbandaka, Democratic Republic of Congo, May 20, 2018. VOA

The risk of the virus spreading to countries like Uganda, Rwanda and South Sudan is very high because of the heavy cross-border traffic among the countries, Moeti said. However, she added, surveillance and preparedness activities have been enhanced on both sides of the border.

Also Read: WHO Calls for Accelerated Action To Eliminate Cervical Cancer

She says there is extensive monitoring at border crossings and improvements have been made in screening people for the virus. In addition, 2,600 health care workers in Uganda have been vaccinated. Moeti said a similar vaccination campaign began two days ago in South Sudan. (VOA)