Tuesday June 25, 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.

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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.”

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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)

Next Story

Mutombo, One of the Greatest Defensive Players in NBA, Records Ebola Messages to Persuade People to Take Precautions

Mutombo, regarded as one of the greatest defensive players in NBA history and a well-known philanthropist

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FILE - Former NBA player Dikembe Mutumbo reacts on the court during the second half of the NCAA Final Four college basketball tournament championship game between Wisconsin and Duke, April 6, 2015, in Indianapolis. VOA

Unable to send disease fighters to help battle one of the deadliest Ebola outbreaks in history, U.S. health officials are turning to basketball hall of famer Dikembe Mutombo for help.

Mutombo, regarded as one of the greatest defensive players in NBA history and a well-known philanthropist in his native Congo, recorded radio and video spots designed to persuade people to take precautions and get care that might stop the disease’s spread.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began posting the spots Monday on its YouTube channel and on the agency’s website . Officials are trying to get radio and TV stations in the Democratic Republic of Congo to air them.

More than 2,200 people have been reported ill — and about 1,500 have died — since an Ebola outbreak was declared in August in eastern Congo. It is the second deadliest outbreak of the lethal virus, which jumps from person to person quickly through close contact with bodily fluids.

Rebel attacks and community resistance have hurt Ebola response work in Congo. A World Health Organization doctor was killed in April, health centers have been attacked and armed groups have repeatedly threatened health workers. Because of safety concerns, the U.S. State Department last year ordered CDC disease specialists to stay out of the outbreak areas.

Mutombo, who moved to the U.S. in the 1980s intending to pursue a medical degree, told The Associated Press he understands where the distrust comes from.

Mutombo, NBA, Ebola
Unable to send disease fighters to help battle one of the deadliest Ebola outbreaks in history, U.S. health officials are turning to basketball hall of famer Dikembe Mutombo for help. Pixabay

“Someone who doesn’t look like you, who doesn’t think like you, who is not from your village, who is from other places, just walk to your village with a nice beautiful white truck and telling you … ‘inject this chemical into your body to protect you from this deadly virus.’ That’s where there’s a fight. This is where we’re having a conflict,” he said.

“How do you that build trust? That’s the big problem we’re having in the Congo,” he said. “I believe as a son of Congo, I think my voice can be heard. Because everyone in the country knows my commitment to the humanity and the health.”

The idea for the PSA was sparked in February when Mutombo, a member of the CDC Foundation’s governing board who lives in Atlanta, was talking with Dr. Robert Redfield, the CDC’s director.

“We are deeply appreciative of his interest to try to get accurate information to the community,” Redfield said.

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Mutombo, who turns 53 on Tuesday, previously did public service announcements focused on polio and yellow fever. A dozen years ago, his foundation established a 300-bed hospital on the outskirts of his hometown of Kinshasa.

The new spots were recorded in Kiswahili, French and Lingala. They talk about recognizing the early signs of Ebola, early treatment and prevention measures. (VOA)