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Number of Ebola Cases Spike Again in DRC, Uganda Approves 3 Experimental Treatment

Health workers have got the all-clear to use three experimental Ebola treatments in Uganda

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Ebola, DRC, Uganda
Ugandan civilians queue to be vaccinated against the Ebola virus in Kirembo village, near the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo in Kasese district, Uganda, June 16, 2019. VOA

Health workers have got the all-clear to use three experimental Ebola treatments in Uganda, a week after the deadly disease spread over the border from Democratic Republic of Congo, authorities said Tuesday.

Two people who had traveled from Congo died in Uganda last week, the World Health Organization said. A three-year-old boy who was sent back to Congo after testing positive for the disease died at the weekend, Congo’s health ministry said.

At least another 1,411 people have died in Congo since August in the second worst outbreak of the disease on record.

“Happy to inform you all that we got clearance from both Uganda National Council for Science and Technology and National Drug Authority to bring in the Therapeutic treatment for #Ebola patients in the country,” Uganda’s Health Minister, Jane Ruth Aceng, said on Twitter.

Ebola, DRC, Uganda
A woman and her child arrive for an Ebola-related investigation at the health facility at the Bwera hospital near the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo in Bwera, Uganda, June 14, 2019. Pixabay

The treatments approved for shipment to Uganda were Mapp Biopharmaceutical’s ZMapp, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc’s REGN-EB3 and Remdesivir, made by Gilead Sciences, said WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic.

“The protocols for the fourth being submitted. Logistics underway with MSF support for importation of a few courses about 10 each,” he added in an email. The U.N. health agency has said there have been no known cases of Ebola spreading between people in Uganda — all recorded patients had traveled in from Congo.

Four experimental therapeutic treatments are already being used in Congo, it added.

No emergency declaration

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On Friday, a WHO panel decided not to declare an international emergency over Congo’s Ebola outbreak despite its spread to Uganda, saying such a declaration could cause too much economic harm.

“Obviously, the crisis is far from over,” Mark Green, the head of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), told a news conference in Nairobi.

Health workers and people who came in contact with infected people began receiving a Merck experimental vaccine in Uganda on Saturday. (VOA)

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Massive Displacement in DR Congo’s Ebola-Affected Ituri Province Poses Serious Health Hazard

At least 160 people were killed during renewed clashes early last month between Lendu farmers and Hema herders

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FILE - A woman and her children wait to receive Ebola vaccinations, in the village of Mabalako, in eastern Congo Monday, June 17, 2019. VOA

The International Organization for Migration warns massive displacement from renewed inter-ethnic fighting in DR Congo’s Ebola-affected Ituri province poses a serious health hazard.

At least 160 people were killed during renewed clashes early last month between Lendu farmers and Hema herders in Ituri province.  U.N. agencies report the violence has displaced hundreds of thousands of people and sent more than 7,500 refugees fleeing for their lives into neighboring Uganda.

The International Organization for Migration reports people who have fled the frontline of the conflict are living in abysmal conditions that create a fertile ground for the spread of disease, most worryingly Ebola.

The latest World Health Organization figures put the number of Ebola cases at 2,382, including 1,606 deaths.  The bulk of these cases and deaths are in conflict-ridden North Kivu province   About 10 percent are in Ituri.

DR Congo, Ebola, Health
The International Organization for Migration warns massive displacement from renewed inter-ethnic fighting. Pixabay

The inter-communal fighting has displaced an estimated 400,000 people.  IOM spokesman, Joel Millman, says his agency manages 12 displacement sites in Ituri’s Djugu Territory.  Thousands of people unable to cram into these overcrowded camps, he says, are sheltering in spontaneous sites.

“Poor hygiene conditions in displacement sites severely increase the risk that Ebola, as well as cholera, measles and acute respiratory diseases, will spread,” Millman said. “Many of these people are seeking assistance in Ebola-affected Bunia, where the displacement site officially called “General Hospital Site” has received more than 5,000 new Internally Displaced Persons, increasing the site’s population to 10,000 or twice its capacity.”

Millman says plans are underway to relocate many of the IDPs to a new improved settlement on land owned by Bunia’s Catholic Diocese.

He says IOM also is reinforcing its Ebola surveillance and disease prevention activities at Ituri’s Points of Entry at International borders.  Measures include hand washing, hygiene promotion, and screening travelers for possible Ebola infections.

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On June 11, the first case of Ebola spread across the border from DRC to Uganda.  A five-year old boy and his grandmother subsequently died from the deadly virus.

Millman says IOM is working to reduce disease transmission to new areas and across borders by expanding its preparedness measures to include Uganda, South Sudan and Burundi. (VOA)