Sunday December 15, 2019

Ebola Epidemic in Democratic Republic of Congo Reaches another Grim Milestone

More than one year after the epidemic was declared, the WHO confirmed 3,004 cases, including 2,006 deaths

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Ebola, Epidemic, DRC
FILE PHOTO: A health worker wearing Ebola protection gear, prepares to enter the Biosecure Emergency Care Unit at the Alliance for International Medical Action ebola treatment center in Beni, DRC, March 30, 2019. VOA

The Ebola epidemic in the Democratic Republic of Congo has reached another grim milestone, the World Health Organization says. More than one year after the epidemic was declared, the WHO confirmed 3,004 cases, including 2,006 deaths.

That is the second worst Ebola outbreak after the 2014 West African epidemic, which infected more than 28,000 people and killed more than 11,000.

Most Ebola cases in the current epidemic are in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s conflict-ridden North Kivu province. WHO says Ebola transmission has been substantial, but somewhat less intense for the past 10 weeks. On average, it says 80 people a week are being sickened by the virus.

Unlike previous outbreaks, health workers have new tools to help them tackle the deadly disease. WHO says more than 200,000 people in the DRC and in four neighboring countries have been vaccinated against Ebola, and two therapeutic treatments are saving the lives of people who seek early treatment.

Ebola, Epidemic, DRC
The Ebola epidemic in the Democratic Republic of Congo has reached another grim milestone, the World Health Organization says. Pixabay

More than 89 million people have been screened for the disease inside the DRC and at international borders, according to WHO, which has helped control the spread of the disease by identifying and providing care to anyone with symptoms.

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However, WHO added, ongoing insecurity in North Kivu and Ituri provinces, as well as community mistrust, continue to be major impediments to international efforts to bring the epidemic to an end. (VOA)

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Nipah Virus has Serious Epidemic Potential: Health Experts

Health Experts Warn of Emerging Threat of Nipah Virus

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Virus
A deadly virus called Nipah carried by bats has already caused human outbreaks across South and South East Asia. (Representational Image). Lifetime Stock

A deadly virus called Nipah carried by bats has already caused human outbreaks across South and South East Asia and has “serious epidemic potential,” global health and infectious disease specialists said on Monday.

The virus, identified in 1999 in Malaysia and Singapore, has sparked outbreaks with mortality rates of between 40% and 90% and spread thousands of kilometers to Bangladesh and India – yet there are no drugs or vaccines against it, they said.

“Twenty years have passed since its discovery, but the world is still not adequately equipped to tackle the global health threat posed by Nipah virus,” said Richard Hatchett, chief executive of the CEPI Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, which is co-leading a Nipah conference this week in Singapore.

CEPI, a partnership between disease experts, and public, private, philanthropic, and civil organizations, was set up in 2017 to try to speed up the development of vaccines against newly emerging and unknown infectious diseases.

Health epidemic
Doctors and relatives wearing protective gear carry the body of a victim, who lost his battle against the brain-damaging Nipah virus, during his funeral at a burial ground in Kozhikode, in the southern Indian state of Kerala. VOA

Among its first disease targets is Nipah, a virus carried primarily by certain types of fruit bats and pigs, which can also be transmitted directly from person to person as well as through contaminated food.

Within two years of being first discovered, Nipah had spread to Bangladesh, where it has caused several outbreaks since 2001.   A 2018 Nipah outbreak in Kerala, India, killed 17 people.

“Outbreaks of Nipah virus have so far been confined to South and Southeast Asia, but the virus has serious epidemic potential, because Pteropus fruit bats that carry the virus are found throughout the tropics and sub-tropics, which are home to more than two billion people,” Hatchett said.

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He said since Nipah can also pass from person to person, it could, in theory, also spread into densely populated areas too.   The two-day Nipah conference, the first to focus on this deadly virus, is being co-hosted by CEPI and the Duke-NUS Medical School in Singapore and starts on Monday.

“There are currently no specific drugs or vaccines for Nipah virus infection, even though the World Health Organization has identified (it) as a priority disease,” said Wang Linfa, a Duke NUS professor and co-chair the conference. He hoped the meeting would stimulate experts to find ways of finding Nipah. (VOA)