Tuesday December 11, 2018

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.

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Ebola
Ebola Virus. Wikimedia Commons
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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.”

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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)

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Road Traffic Accidents Cause 1.35 Mn Deaths Each Year: WHO

WHO noted that 48 middle- and high-income countries that have implemented strong road traffic laws and other safety measures have made progress in reducing road deaths.

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Traffic Crashes, Road Traffic
Two bikes were involved in an accident with a bus that crashed and turned on its roof near the town of Franschhoek, South Africa, March 7, 2015. VOA

The World Health Organization (WHO) is calling for urgent action to put a brake on road traffic crashes that kill 1.35 million people every year, mostly in poor developing countries.

In Geneva, the U.N. agency launched its global status report on road safety 2018.

The report found road traffic injuries to be the leading killer of children and young people aged five to 29 years, with a death occurring every 24 seconds. The report said more than half of those killed are pedestrians, cyclists, and motorcycle riders and passengers.

Etienne Krug, head of the U.N. Agency’s Department on Disability, Violence and Injury Prevention, called these deaths a huge inequality issue.

Traffic Signals, Road Traffic
Traffic and congestion on roads is frequent in all cities of India. Wikimedia

“Low-income countries have one percent of the vehicles in the world and 13 percent of all the deaths; while high-income countries have 40 percent of all the vehicles,” Krug said. “So, that is 40 times more, but only seven percent of the deaths.That is half of the deaths with 40 times more vehicles.”

The report said death rates are highest in Africa and lowest in Europe. Some of the key risk factors include speeding, drinking and driving, and failure to use seat belts, motorcycle helmets and child restraints.

Krug said putting the right measures in place will save lives. These include the right legislation and enforcement, creating special lanes for cyclists and improving the quality of vehicles.

Road accidents in India
Road accidents in India. Pixabay

“It is not acceptable that vehicles are being sold in developing countries that look the same as the vehicles that we see here in Switzerland or the U.S. or anywhere else, but that are not,” Krug told VOA. “Because to make them cheaper, they have been stripped of all of their safety features, such as air bags or electronic stability control, etc.”

WHO noted that 48 middle- and high-income countries that have implemented strong road traffic laws and other safety measures have made progress in reducing road deaths.

Also Read: HIV Epidemic Spreading Rapidly in Pakistan: WHO

However, it said no such progress has been made in low-income countries where safety measures are lacking. (VOA)