Monday March 18, 2019

Ebola Epidemic To Spread in Eastern DRC, Claims WHO

The Ebola outbreak in North Kivu and Ituri provinces is the second largest in history after the 2014 epidemic in West Africa that killed more than 11,000 people.Prior to the recent incidents, progress was being made in containing the spread of the Ebola virus in the DRC.

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Ebola
A health worker in a protective suit walks past burned structures after attackers set fire to an Ebola treatment center run by Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) in the east Congolese town of Katwa, Democratic Republic of Congo, Feb. 25, 2019. (Meinie Nicolai/MSF) VOA

The World Health Organization (WHO) says the deadly Ebola virus is likely to spread in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo because of deteriorating security in conflict-ridden North Kivu and Ituri provinces.

The latest WHO figures put the number of Ebola cases at 885, including 555 deaths.

International efforts to stop the spread of the deadly Ebola virus in eastern DR Congo have hit a serious roadblock. The charity Doctors Without Borders has suspended its life-saving operations. The action follows attacks on two of its Ebola treatment centers this week — the first on February 24 in Katwa, followed by an attack three days later in Butembo.

Burned structures are seen after attackers set fire to an Ebola treatment center run by Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) in the east Congolese town of Katwa, Democratic Republic of Congo, Feb. 25, 2019. Picture taken February 25, 2019. (Laurie Bonnaud/MSF)
Burned structures are seen after attackers set fire to an Ebola treatment center run by Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) in the east Congolese town of Katwa, Democratic Republic of Congo, Feb. 25, 2019. Picture taken February 25, 2019. (Laurie Bonnaud/MSF) VOA

The World Health Organization called the attacks deplorable and said there is a great risk of the spread of the disease. During the attack on the facility in Butembo, four Ebola patients fled for their lives.

WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier said three of the patients have since returned, while one is still missing.

“If you want, the positive note is that all of these four patients were convalescent, that means they were already getting better,” he said. “Hence, they had a lower viral load, which makes it way less likely for further infections.But yes, it is highly important to find those people, that last patient and then, of course, immediately start the contact tracing and monitor the contacts these patients might have been in touch with.”

Ebola
International efforts to stop the spread of the deadly Ebola virus in eastern DR Congo have hit a serious roadblock. VOA

Lindmeier said the WHO remains committed to staying in the DRC until the job is done. However, he notes that an Ebola outbreak as complex as this one can only be managed collectively and by having all the partners on the ground. He added that it is normal to expect organizations to do whatever is necessary to protect their staffs.

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The Ebola outbreak in North Kivu and Ituri provinces is the second largest in history after the 2014 epidemic in West Africa that killed more than 11,000 people.Prior to the recent incidents, progress was being made in containing the spread of the Ebola virus in the DRC.

The WHO reports the disease is now largely under control in the former hot spots of Mangina, Beni, and Komanda.It says more than 250 people have been cured and 80,000 protected through vaccination. (VOA)

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Pregnant Women To Be Vaccinated Against The Deadly Ebola Virus

Ring vaccination is a strategy that prevents the spread of the disease by vaccinating only those likely to be infected with the virus.

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Ebola
Ring vaccination is a strategy that prevents the spread of the disease by vaccinating only those likely to be infected with the virus. VOA

An independent advisory body convened by the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends pregnant women and breastfeeding women in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo be vaccinated against the deadly Ebola virus. Latest WHO figures put the number of Ebola cases in the DRC at 853, including 521 deaths since the beginning of the outbreak in August.

More than 80,000 people so far have been vaccinated against Ebola in the African country’s conflict-ridden North Kivu and Ituri provinces during the current outbreak. The vaccine is still in its experimental stage. But since 2015 it has been given to thousands of people in Africa, Europe and the United States.

The studies of the efficacy of the vaccine are not conclusive. However, they indicate the serum is safe and protects people against Ebola. On the basis of accumulated evidence, the group of immunization experts recommends continued ring vaccination for Ebola in DRC.

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The WHO says all vaccinated pregnant women will be closely monitored until the birth of their babies to see if there are any adverse effects. Pixabay

Ring vaccination is a strategy that prevents the spread of the disease by vaccinating only those likely to be infected with the virus. WHO spokesman, Tarek Jasarevic says the experts advise pregnant women at high risk of infection and death from Ebola should be given the vaccination.

“So, this aim, this vaccinating of women would protect them, provide them with more protection. But we also know that if we use this ring vaccination that women who are in the community that is vaccinated then have a low risk. So, it is really between risk and benefits and we hope that the use of the vaccine in pregnant women will generate some data for the future,” Jasarevic said.

ring vaccine
On the basis of accumulated evidence, the group of immunization experts recommends continued ring vaccination for Ebola in DRC. Pixabay

The group of experts advise the vaccine be given to pregnant women in their second or third trimester as well as to breastfeeding women and babies under one year old.

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The experts also recommend that one or more of three other new experimental Ebola vaccines be tested in areas neighboring the affected regions. They say pregnant and breastfeeding women should be included in these trials.

The WHO says all vaccinated pregnant women will be closely monitored until the birth of their babies to see if there are any adverse effects. (VOA)