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Ebola Outbreaks in Congo

Congo has contained several past Ebola outbreaks but the spread of the hemorrhagic fever to an urban area poses a major challenge. The city of Mbandaka, which has one confirmed Ebola case, is an hour's flight from the capital, Kinshasa, and is located on the Congo River, a busy travel corridor.

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Congo has contained several past Ebola outbreaks but the spread of the hemorrhagic fever to an urban area poses a major challenge.
Ebola virus outbreaks again. Pixabay.

Congo’s latest Ebola outbreak does not yet warrant being declared a global health emergency, the World Health Organization announced Friday, as health officials rushed to contain the often deadly virus (Ebola) that has spread to a city of more than 1 million.

The vast, impoverished country now has 14 confirmed Ebola cases, with dozens of others probable or suspected.

WHO officials, speaking after an experts’ meeting on the outbreak, said vaccinations could begin as early as Sunday in a key test of an experimental vaccine.

The health agency called the risk to the public in Congo “very high” and the regional risk high, with the global risk low. The Republic of Congo and Central African Republic are nearby and are among nine neighboring countries alerted. WHO said there should be no international travel or trade restrictions.

Dr. Robert Steffen, who chaired the expert meeting, said there was “strong reason to believe this situation can be brought under control.”

He noted the almost immediate response by WHO and partners after Ebola was announced in Congo last week. Without a vigorous response, “the situation is likely to deteriorate significantly,” he added. If the outbreak spreads internationally, the expert committee would reconvene to reconsider its assessment of the epidemic.

Congo has contained several past Ebola outbreaks but the spread of the hemorrhagic fever to an urban area poses a major challenge. The city of Mbandaka, which has one confirmed Ebola case, is an hour’s flight from the capital, Kinshasa, and is located on the Congo River, a busy travel corridor.

For a health crisis to constitute a global health emergency it must meet th

Until now, the outbreak had been confined to remote rural areas, where Ebola, which is spread via contact with bodily fluids of those infected, travels more slowly.
Ebola Virus. Wikimedia.

ree criteria stipulated by WHO: It must threaten other countries via the international spread of disease, it must be a “serious, unusual or unexpected” situation, and it may require immediate international action for containment.

‘Major, major game-changer’

Ebola has twice made it to Congo’s capital in the past and was rapidly stopped. Congo has had the most Ebola outbreaks of any country, and Dr. David Heymann, a former WHO director who has led numerous responses to Ebola, said authorities there have considerable expertise in halting the lethal virus.

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The Ebola vaccine proved highly effective in the West Africa outbreak a few years ago, although the vaccine was used long after the epidemic had peaked. More than 4,000 doses have arrived in Congo this week, with more on the way, and vaccinations are expected to start next week. One challenge will be keeping the vaccine cold in a region with poor infrastructure and patchy electricity.

Just one Ebola death in the current outbreak has been confirmed so far. Congo’s health ministry late Thursday said the total number of cases is 45, including 10 suspected and 21 probable ones.

The health ministry said two new deaths have been tied to the cases, including one in a suburb of Mbandaka. The other was in Bikoro, the rural area where the outbreak was announced last week. It is about 150 kilometers (93 miles) from Mbandaka.

“This is a major, major game-changer in the outbreak,” Dr. Peter Salama, WHO’s emergency response chief, warned Thursday after the first urban case was announced. “Urban Ebola can result in an exponential increase in cases in a way that rural Ebola struggles to do.”

Until now, the outbreak had been confined to remote rural areas, where Ebola, which is spread via contact with bodily fluids of those infected, travels more slowly.

Health teams

Doctors Without Borders said 514 people believed to have been in contact with infected people were being monitored. WHO said it was deploying about 30 more experts to Mbandaka.

Read more: Study Shows That Antibacterial in Toothpaste May Combat Severe Lung Diseases

Amid fears of the outbreak spreading to neighboring countries, the U.N. migration agency said Friday it would support the deployment of Congolese health teams to 16 entry points along the nearby border with the Republic of Congo for infection control and prevention.

The U.N. children’s agency said it was mobilizing hundreds of community workers to raise awareness on protection against the disease.

This is the ninth Ebola outbreak in Congo since 1976, when the disease was first identified. The virus is initially transmitted to people from wild animals, including bats and monkeys.

There is no specific treatment for Ebola. Symptoms include fever, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle pain and at times internal and external bleeding. The virus can be fatal in up to 90 percent of cases, depending on the strain. VOA.

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Kids in LMICs Receive Excessive Amount of Antibiotic Prescriptions

Kids in low income countries prescribed excess antibiotics

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Antibiotic Prescriptions
Children who receive excessive antibiotic prescriptions may lose the ability to fight pathogens. Pixabay

Kids in low and middle-income countries (LMICs) are receiving an excessive amount of antibiotic prescriptions that could harm the children’s ability to fight pathogens as well as increase antibiotic resistance worldwide, warns a new study.

Children in these countries received 25 antibiotic prescriptions through age five – a “remarkable” estimate, given that two antibiotic prescriptions per year is considered excessive in many high-income settings, said the study published in the journal The Lancet Infectious Diseases.

“We knew children in LMICs are sick more often, and we knew antibiotic prescription rates are high in many countries. What we did not know was how these elements translate into actual antibiotic exposure – and the results are rather alarming,” said lead author of the study Gunther Fink from Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute (Swiss TPH), Basel, Switzerland.

Antimicrobial resistance is one of today’s biggest threats to global health and development, according to the World Health Organization.

prescriptions
Children in LMICs received 25 antibiotic prescriptions through age. Pixabay

One factor contributing to this global health threat is the excessive use of antibiotics worldwide.

The research team from Swiss TPH and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in the US analysed data from 2007-2017 from health facilities and household surveys from eight countries: Haiti, Kenya, Malawi, Namibia, Nepal, Senegal, Tanzania, and Uganda.

Results showed that antibiotics were administered in 81 per cent of cases for children with a respiratory illness, in 50 per cent for children with diarrhoea, and in 28 per cent for children with malaria.

The researchers found that the number of antibiotic prescriptions in early childhood varied from country to country.

While a child in Senegal received approximately one antibiotic prescription per year in the first five years of life, a child in Uganda was prescribed up to 12.

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In comparison, a prior study showed that children under five in Europe receive less than one antibiotic prescription per year on average.

“This number is still high given that the vast majority of infections in this age group are of viral origin,” said study co-author Valerie D’Acremont from Swiss TPH. (IANS)