Sunday January 26, 2020

WHO to Strengthen Strategies to Combat Ebola Epidemic in Congo

The WHO's latest report counted 1,738 cases of Ebola in Congo, including 1,218 deaths

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FILE - A priest watches as health workers dressed in Ebola protective suits prepare the body of an Ebola patient for burial at the Ebola treatment center in Butembo, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, March 26, 2019. VOA

A panel of World Health Organization experts says strategies must be strengthened to combat the worsening Ebola epidemic in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. The WHO’s latest report counted 1,738 cases of Ebola in Congo, including 1,218 deaths.

Congo’s minister of health, Oly Ilungo, likened the Ebola epidemic to a multi-headed dragon. Speaking through an interpreter, he said the epidemic began in one place, Mangina, but keeps popping up elsewhere.

“Our response, therefore, needs to continually adapt itself to the situation,” said Ilungo. “We need to continually adapt and change our strategy bearing in mind lessons learned.”

He said prevention measures, surveillance, the tracing of infected people, timely treatment and safe burial practices must be maintained. At the same time, he said old tools need to be refreshed and improved.

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FILE – Victorine Siherya, an Ebola survivor working as a caregiver to babies who are confirmed Ebola cases, holds an infant outside the red zone at the Ebola treatment center in Butembo, Democratic Republic of Congo, March 25, 2019. VOA

He proposed setting up a data-driven system, which compiles all the information produced in the response effort.

“Increasingly, it manages to carry out analyses that allow us to get ahead of the problem and we can identify the danger areas where there might be a greater risk of the virus spreading and we can get ahead of the problem,” he added.

The WHO regional director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti, finds the increasing number of new Ebola cases extremely worrying and challenging. She warned the risk of the disease spreading beyond Congo’s borders is very high.

She said the DRC’s nine neighboring countries are aware of the dangers and, with the help of the WHO, have taken many steps to prepare for that possibility.

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An Ebola health worker is seen at a treatment center in Beni, Eastern Congo, April, 16, 2019. The World Health Organization is warning it may not be possible to contain Ebola to the two affected provinces in eastern Congo if violent attacks on health teams continue. VOA

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“We have 16 Ebola-treatment centers and units having been established across the nine countries,” she said. “And, in addition over 4,500 health workers have been trained to be able to detect and manage these cases.The countries have continued to engage with communities to raise their awareness in all high-risk areas.”

WHO officials are appealing for intensified international political engagement and financial support to combat Ebola. They warn the further spread of the dangerous disease would have serious social and economic regional implications and would trigger an even greater crisis. (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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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.”

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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)