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Ebola Has Reached To a Very Serious Situation In Congo: WHO

The WHO has warned the virus could spread to nearby countries, such as Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi.

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A Congolese health worker administers Ebola vaccine to a boy who had contact with an Ebola sufferer in the village of Mangina in North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. VOA

Violence in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo is hampering efforts to contain an Ebola outbreak that has already killed more than 150 people, according to the World Health Organization.

“It’s a very serious situation. This is something that we have been fearing from the beginning; that the security situation will influence the response to the level that we cannot really function fully,” says a WHO spokesman, Tarik Jasarevic.

The outbreak in Congo’s North Kivu province is in a conflict zone where dozens of armed groups operate. Aid agencies have been forced to suspend or slow down their work on several occasions since the outbreak began in July.

Ebola, WHO,congo
In this photo taken Sept 9, 2018, a health worker sprays disinfectant on his colleague after working at an Ebola treatment center in Beni, DRC. VOA

Health workers killed

It happened again over the weekend, when two health agents with Congo’s military were killed by rebels. The next day, residents in the city of Beni pelted aid groups’ vehicles with stones during a protest against a separate rebel attack that killed at least 13 people.

Jasarevic tells VOA’s English-to-Africa service that the incidents have forced Ebola containment teams to severely curtail their operations. The result?

“Contacts will not be followed; this is something that has to be done on a daily basis. People who may develop the disease will not go immediately to treatment centers and will present danger to their environment,” he says.

Ebola, WHO, UNICEF, congo
Congolese health workers register people and take their temperatures before they are vaccinated against Ebola in the village of Mangina in North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of Congo. VOA

Containment delayed

That means health workers will have to essentially start over to locate contacts of Ebola victims and ensure they are vaccinated.

“In case we are not able to access communities, if in case response measures are not being put in place safe burials, contact tracing, vaccinations, provision of treatment to those who are sick — it is really difficult to hope that the Ebola outbreak can be contained on its own,” Jasarevic says.

Latest numbers

According to the WHO’s most recent report, released Tuesday, a total of 238 confirmed and probable Ebola Virus Disease cases have been reported in Congo’s North Kivu and Ituri provinces. It said 155 people have died.

Ebola Congo, WHO
A Congolese health worker checks the temperature of a man before the launch of vaccination campaign against the deadly Ebola virus near Mangina village, near the town of Beni in North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of Congo. VOA

The WHO has warned the virus could spread to nearby countries, such as Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi.

Also Read: The World Is Three Countries Away From Being Polio-Free: WHO

“Neighboring countries need to be ready in case the outbreak spreads beyond the Democratic Republic of the Congo,” said the latest WHO report. (VOA)

Next Story

New York City’s Mandatory Measles Vaccination Order Stands Still

The health department's lawyers argued that quarantining was ineffective because people carrying the virus can be contagious before symptoms appear.

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measles
Materials are seen left at demonstration by people opposed to childhood vaccination after officials in Rockland County, a New York City suburb, banned children not vaccinated against measles from public spaces. VOA

Brooklyn judge on Thursday ruled against a group of parents who challenged New York City’s recently imposed mandatory measles vaccination order, rejecting their arguments that the city’s public health authority exceeded its authority.

In a six-page decision rendered hours after a hearing on the matter, Judge Lawrence Knipel denied the parents’ petition seeking to lift the vaccination order, imposed last week to stem the worst measles outbreak to hit the city since 1991.

The judge sided with municipal health officials who defended the order as a rare but necessary step to contain a surge in the highly contagious disease that has infected at least 329 people so far, most of them children from Orthodox Jewish communities in the borough of Brooklyn.

Another 222 cases have been diagnosed elsewhere in New York state, mostly in a predominantly ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighborhood of Rockland County, northwest of Manhattan.

The New York outbreaks are part of a larger resurgence of measles across the country, with at least 555 cases confirmed in 20 states, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Health experts say the virus, which can cause severe complications and even death, has spread mostly among school-age children whose parents declined to get them vaccinated. Most profess philosophical or religious reasons, or cite concerns — debunked by medical science — that the three-way measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine may cause autism.

The judge rejected the parents’ contention that the vaccination order was excessive or coercive, noting it does not call for forcibly administering the vaccine to those who refuse it.

He also dismissed assertions in the petition disputing the “clear and present danger” of the outbreak. “Vaccination is known to extinguish the fire of contagion,” the judge said.

FILE PHOTO: A sign warning people of measles in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community of Williamsburg in New York City, April 11, 2019.
A sign warning people of measles in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community of Williamsburg in New York City, April 11, 2019. VOA

Secret identities

The vaccination order, which was extended this week, requires residents of certain affected Brooklyn neighborhoods to obtain the MMR vaccine unless they can otherwise demonstrate immunity to measles, or face a fine.

The court challenge was brought in Brooklyn’s Supreme Court by five people identified only as parents living in the affected neighborhoods. Their identities were kept confidential to protect their children’s’ privacy, their lawyers said.

In court on Thursday, they told Knipel the city had overstepped its authority and that quarantining the infected would be a preferable approach.

Robert Krakow, an attorney for the parents, estimated that just 0.0006 percent of the population of Brooklyn and Queens had measles. “That’s not an epidemic,” he said. “It’s not Ebola. It’s not smallpox.”

The health department’s lawyers argued that quarantining was ineffective because people carrying the virus can be contagious before symptoms appear.

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The vaccination order, which was extended this week, requires residents of certain affected Brooklyn neighborhoods to obtain the MMR vaccine unless they can otherwise demonstrate immunity to measles, or face a fine. Pixabay

The judge cited 39 cases diagnosed in Michigan that have been traced to an individual traveling from the Williamsburg community at the epicenter of Brooklyn’s outbreak.

Also Read: Short-Circuit Likely The Cause of Notre Dame Fire, Claims Police Investigators

The surge in measles there originated with an unvaccinated child who became infected on a visit to Israel, where the highly contagious virus is also running rampant.

The number of measles cases worldwide nearly quadrupled in the first quarter of 2019 to 112,163 compared with the same period last year, the World Health Organization said this week. (VOA)