Sunday June 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

Uganda Confirms First Ebola Case Outside DRC Outbreak

The announcement puts new pressure on the World Health Organization to declare the Ebola outbreak

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FILE- An Ebola health worker is seen at a treatment center in Beni, Eastern Congo, April 16, 2019

A child in Uganda has tested positive for Ebola in the first cross-border case of the deadly virus since an outbreak started in neighboring Congo last year, Uganda’s health ministry said late Tuesday, in a blow to efforts by health workers who for months sought to prevent contamination across the heavily traveled frontier.

The 5-year-old Congolese boy has been isolated with family members at a hospital in a western district near the Congo border, Ugandan Health Minister Jane Aceng told reporters.

The announcement puts new pressure on the World Health Organization to declare the Ebola outbreak — the second-deadliest in history — a global health emergency. The outbreak is unfolding amid unprecedented challenges of rebel attacks and community resistance in a region that had never experienced Ebola before.

In April, a WHO expert committee decided that the outbreak, while of “deep concern,” was not yet a global health emergency. But international spread is one of the major criteria the United Nations agency considers before such a declaration.

Uganda, Ebola, DRC
FILE – A Congolese man holds a cross during the burial service of a Congolese woman who died of Ebola, at a cemetery in Butembo. VOA

Conflicting statements

It was not immediately clear when the boy entered Uganda. A WHO statement said he entered on Sunday with his family through the Bwera border post. He sought treatment at Kagando hospital and was transferred to Bwera Ebola treatment unit, WHO said.

Confirmation of Ebola was made Tuesday by the Uganda Virus Institute. “The ministry of health and WHO have dispatched a rapid response team to Kasese to identify other people who may be at risk,” WHO said.

Congo’s health ministry, however, in a separate statement said the boy, from Mabalako, arrived on Monday at Congo’s Kasindi border post. There, a dozen family members appeared to have symptoms and were transferred to an isolation center at the local hospital for observation.

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Six family members then broke away while being transferred to an Ebola treatment center in Beni and crossed into Uganda while Congolese border officials alerted their Ugandan colleagues, Congo’s health ministry said. Uganda officials found the family members at the Kagando hospital, where the boy’s Ebola case was confirmed.

Officials from the two countries will meet Wednesday about the possibility of sending the family back to Beni in Congo for treatment, the health ministry said.

It was not immediately clear how the family members were able to cross the border, where millions have travelers have been monitored for Ebola since the outbreak began.

Nearly 1,400 deaths

Uganda, Ebola, DRC
A child in Uganda has tested positive for Ebola in the first cross-border case. Pixabay

There have been more than 2,000 confirmed and probable cases of the Ebola virus in Congo since August, with nearly 1,400 deaths. The disease is spread mainly through contact with the bodily fluids of those infected.

For the first time, an experimental but effective Ebola vaccine is being widely used, with more than 130,000 doses distributed. Uganda has vaccinated nearly 4,700 health workers, WHO said.

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Uganda has had multiple outbreaks of Ebola and other hemorrhagic fevers since 2000. (VOA)