Tuesday January 28, 2020

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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Reported Deaths from New Coronavirus Probably an Underestimation: WHO

WHO Expects Coronavirus Cases, Deaths to Escalate

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China Outbreak coronavirus
People wear masks to protect themselves from coronavirus on a street in Hong Kong. VOA

By Lisa Schlein

The World Health Organization says the number of reported cases and deaths from the new coronavirus is probably an underestimation. The latest reports put the number of confirmed cases at 830, including 26 deaths.

Most of the infections and all of the deaths have occurred in China. A small number of coronavirus cases have been reported in seven other countries, including the United States. All have been mild, and all of those patients have recovered.

World Health Organization spokesman Tarik Jasarevic says it is too early to draw conclusions about the severity of the coronavirus.

“Because at the beginning of any outbreak, you would focus more on the severe cases and you will have more of those and then maybe we are missing some mild cases because people will just be a little bit sick and will not be ever tested and they will recover,” Jasarevic said. “We may see more mild cases as surveillance intensifies. So, the issue is not really so much on numbers that we know that will go up.”

CHINA-HEALTH-VIRUS
People travelling for the Lunar New Year wear protective masks as they head to the departure area at the Beijing Capital International Airport in Beijing. VOA

Michael Ryan, the executive director of the WHO’s health emergencies program, says there is no particular treatment for this new pneumonia-like coronavirus.

“There have been a number of compounds that have been used in the fight against coronavirus, but it is very important to recognize that there is no recognized effective therapeutic against coronaviruses,” he said. “However, there are potential clinical trials that can be done with agents and that is what we are focused on right now — identifying other therapeutic agents and opportunities to test new drugs.”

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On Thursday, a WHO expert committee decided not to declare the coronavirus a public health emergency of international concern. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus noted the virus was an emergency in China, but had not yet become a global health emergency.

He did, however, add the WHO was ready to reconvene another emergency meeting to review the decision if the evolution of the epidemic warranted a re-examination. (VOA)