Wednesday October 16, 2019

WHO Teams Working To Combat Ebola Outbreak in DRC

The WHO said it is deploying epidemiologists, clinicians and infection prevention and control experts to DRC.

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The 71st World Health Assembly was held last week in Geneva and was attended by delegations from all WHO member states.
WHO Flag, Wikimedia commons

Medical teams from the World Health Organization arrived in the Democratic Republic of Congo to combat a new Ebola virus outbreak, as government officials in the region put plans in place to contain the outbreak.

The World Health Organization announced Tuesday that DRC is suffering a new outbreak in its Bikoro area in Equateur Province and said it has released $1 million from its emergency fund to support response to the crisis. The announcement came after 17 people died of suspected cases recently and health officials confirmed that at least two of the dead were infected with Ebola.

Nigeria’s Health Minister Isaac Adewole said Wednesday that Nigeria is stepping up its screening of visitors from DRC and will consider sending health teams to Congo help manage the outbreak.

The Ebola virus can transfer from monkeys and bats to humans, among whom it can spread rapidly. In many cases, the hemorrhagic fever resulting from the Ebola infection is fatal.
Ebola Outbreak in DRC, VOA

The WHO said it is deploying epidemiologists, clinicians and infection prevention and control experts to DRC.

The last Ebola outbreak in DRC was in 2017 in Likati Health Zone, when 4 of 8 infected people died. This is the ninth Ebola outbreak since the virus was discovered in 1976 and named for a local river, the Ebola.

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None of the Ebola outbreaks in DRC were connected to the massive outbreak that took place recently in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. It lasted from 2014 to 2016 and killed more than 11,000 people. The WHO was criticized for its slow response to that outbreak.

The Ebola virus can transfer from monkeys and bats to humans, among whom it can spread rapidly. In many cases, the hemorrhagic fever resulting from the Ebola infection is fatal.

A new, experimental vaccine has been shown to be effective against the virus, although supplies are limited. (VOA)

Next Story

WHO Reports Progress in Containing Ebola Outbreak in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo

It is impossible to predict where the outbreak is going to go next, said Ryan.

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WHO, Ebola, Outbreak
The executive Director of WHO Health Emergencies, Michael Ryan, says he is largely optimistic that aid workers are getting control of the Ebola outbreak in eastern Congo. VOA

The World Health Organization reports progress in containing the Ebola outbreak in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, but says many challenges to its elimination remain.  WHO reports the number of cases in the outbreak now stands at 3,207, including 2,144 deaths.

The executive Director of WHO Health Emergencies, Michael Ryan, says he is largely optimistic that aid workers are getting control of the Ebola outbreak in eastern Congo.  But, he says, it is impossible to say the outbreak is over.

“It is not.  It is impossible to predict where the outbreak is going to go next,” said Ryan. “But… I do–I would stand over the fact that we have significantly contained the virus in a much smaller geographic area.  Now we have to kill the virus.  The problem is, it is back in areas that are deeply insecure.”

In fact, the virus has come full circle.  Ryan notes the disease has moved from Butembo and other urban areas to the remote, rural town of Mangina, the epicenter of the outbreak.  He says the virus is back where it began when the Ebola outbreak was declared August 1, 2018.

WHO, Ebola, Outbreak
But, he says, it is impossible to say the outbreak is over. Pixabay

“So, essentially the virus is back in the same zone,” said Ryan. “So, the factors that allowed that virus to transmit at low intensity for a number of months, have not changed.  Deep insecurity, reticence amongst the population, distrust and many other factors continue to make this a very dangerous situation.  But a situation, for which I believe we are making significant progress at this time.”

Ryan says WHO is increasing the scale of its operation, engaging in active surveillance across North Kivu province and actively seeking new cases and tracing contacts to keep the virus from spreading.

He says more than 230,000 people have been vaccinated against the deadly disease and more lives are being saved among people infected with the virus who are coming to the treatment centers.

He says the fatality rate among the nearly 800 patients currently in Ebola treatment units is less than one third – a significantly better outcome than the two-thirds fatality rate reported for the disease overall.

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Still, this is the biggest Ebola outbreak in Africa since the epidemic across three West African countries in 2014 killed more than 11,000 people. (VOA)