Wednesday March 20, 2019

Ebola Treatment Gets New Hope, Faces Old Hurdles In Congo

In the district of Ndindi, in Beni, Ebola is spreading due to the community's reluctance to cooperate with health workers.

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Ebola, WHO, UNICEF, congo, Uganda, women
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

When Esperance Nzavaki heard she was cured of Ebola after three weeks of cutting-edge care at a medical centre in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, she raised her arms to the sky with joy and praised the Lord.

Her recovery is testament to the effectiveness of a new treatment, which isolates patients in futuristic cube-shaped mobile units with transparent walls and gloved access, so health workers no longer need to don cumbersome protective gear.

“I started to feel sick, with a fever and pain all over my body. I thought it was typhoid. I took medicine but it didn’t work,” Nzavaki told Reuters in Beni, a city of several hundred thousand, where officials are racing to contain the virus.

“Then an ambulance came and brought me to hospital for Ebola treatment. Now I praise God I’m healed.”

Ebola
Ebola Virus. Wikimedia Commons

The fight against Ebola has advanced more in recent years than in any since it was discovered near the Congo River in 1976. When the worst outbreak killed 11,300 people in West Africa in 2013-2016, there was no vaccine and treatment amounted to little more than keeping patients comfortable and hydrated.

Now there’s an experimental vaccine manufactured by Merck which already this year helped quash an earlier outbreak of this strain of the virus on the other side of the country in under three months. And there are the cube treatment centers, pioneered by the Senegal-based medical charity, ALIMA.

“With this system … where there are not people donning masks, the patients feel reassured and perceive that there is life here,” said Claude Mahoudeau, ALIMA’s coordinator for the Ebola outbreak in Beni.

In addition, three experimental treatments have been rolled out for the first time, offering patients additional reason to hope that their diagnosis is not a death sentence.

Congo,ebola
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

Yet even the smartest science can do little about the marauding rebel groups and widespread fear and mistrust that could yet scupper efforts to contain Congo’s tenth outbreak of the deadly haemorrhagic fever.

The latest outbreak is so far believed to have killed 90 people since July and infected another 40.

The stakes are high, not just for health reasons. Ebola could complicate Congo’s first democratic change of power, the holding of a Dec. 23 election to replace President Joseph Kabila that is already two years late.

Rebellion, fear, mistrust

The affected North Kivu and Ituri provinces have been a tinder box of armed rebellion and ethnic killing since two civil wars in the late 1990s. Some areas near the epicenter require armed escorts to reach because of insecurity. Two South African peacekeepers there were wounded in a rebel ambush last week.

And last week, authorities confirmed the first death from Ebola in the major trading hub of Butembo, a city of almost a million people near the border with Uganda, dampening hopes that the virus was being brought under control.

Ebola
Director-General of the World Health Organization Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus attends a news conference after an emergency committee meeting on the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, VOA

On Monday, the World Health Organization (WHO) said more than 60 of its experts had arrived in the city and that a mobile laboratory had started testing samples.

Insecurity aside, the biggest challenges the government faces could be panic and downright denial, as they were during the catastrophic West Africa outbreak.

“Ebola does not exist in Beni,” resident Tresor Malala said, shaking his head. “For a long time, people got sick with fever, diarrhoea, vomiting and they healed. Now someone gets a fever, they get sent to the Ebola treatment center and then they die.”

Taxi driver Mosaste Kala was equally skeptical: “The only people dying are the ones going to the … treatment center.”

Tackling these perceptions will be crucial if authorities are to halt the epidemic.

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A family sits outside in a neighborhood where three people died of Ebola in Mbandaka, Congo,
VOA

At a news conference on Saturday, Health Minister Oly Ilunga Kalenga acknowledged that “community resistance is the first challenge to the response to the epidemic.”

In the district of Ndindi, in Beni, Ebola is spreading due to the community’s reluctance to cooperate with health workers, the ministry says. Some locals have hidden sick relatives or refused to be vaccinated.

Also Read: North Kivu And Ituri, Congo To Welcome More Than 80,000 Children In This New School Year

The problem, says school teacher Alain Mulonda, many of whose pupils were being kept at home by anxious parents, is that locals have little understanding of Ebola.

“If the population of Beni continues to show this distrust,” he said, “this disease will consume the whole town.” (VOA)

Next Story

Amazing Fact! Your Genes Determine Your Quality of Sleep

"Our study suggests that many of the genes important for sleep in animal models may also influence sleep in humans and opens the door to better understanding of the function and regulation of sleep," Dashti added.

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This was comparable to other well-recognised factors that influenced sleep duration. Pixabay

Experiencing problems like insomnia or hypersomnia could be genetic, say researchers who identified 76 new gene regions associated with the time a person sleeps.

It is well known that regularly getting adequate sleep — 7 to 8 hours per night — is important for health, and both insufficient sleep — 6 or fewer hours — and excessive sleep — 9 hours or more — have been linked to significant health problems.

Family studies have suggested that 10 to 40 per cent of variation in sleep duration may be inherited, and previous genetic studies have associated variants in two gene regions with the sleep duration.

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“Our study suggests that many of the genes important for sleep in animal models may also influence sleep in humans and opens the door to better understanding of the function and regulation of sleep,” Dashti added. Pixabay

The study from the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) in Boston, US, analysed genetic data from more than 446,000 participants, who self-reported the amount of sleep they typically received.

The study identified 78 gene regions — including the two previously identified — as associated with sleep duration.

While carrying a single gene variant influenced the average amount of sleep by only a minute, participants carrying the largest number of duration-increasing variants reported an average of 22 more minutes of sleep, compared with those with the fewest.

This was comparable to other well-recognised factors that influenced sleep duration.

 

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Family studies have suggested that 10 to 40 per cent of variation in sleep duration may be inherited, and previous genetic studies have associated variants in two gene regions with the sleep duration. Pixabay

“While we spend about a third of our life asleep, we have little knowledge of the specific genes and pathways that regulate the amount of sleep people get,” said Hassan Saeed Dashti from MGH.

“Our study suggests that many of the genes important for sleep in animal models may also influence sleep in humans and opens the door to better understanding of the function and regulation of sleep,” Dashti added.

The study, published in Nature Communications journal, also found shared genetic links between both short and long sleep duration.

Also Read: SpaceX Crew Dragon Capsule Undocks from International Space Station

It also found factors such as higher levels of body fat, depression symptoms and fewer years of schooling, implying negative effects from both too little and too much sleep.

While short sleep duration was genetically linked with insomnia and smoking, long sleep duration was linked with ailments such as schizophrenia, Type-2 diabetes and coronary artery disease. (IANS)