Sunday August 25, 2019

WHO Voicing Concern about Growing Risk of Congo’s Ebola Spreading to Neighboring Countries

Fears that the deadly Ebola virus could spread to Congo's nine neighboring countries are growing with the death

0
//
WHO, Congo, Ebola
A health worker sprays disinfectant on an ambulance at a Health Centre in Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo, July 18, 2019. VOA

As the Ebola epidemic in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo enters its second year, experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) are voicing concern about the growing risk of the virus spreading to neighboring countries.

Fears that the deadly Ebola virus could spread to Congo’s nine neighboring countries are growing with the death of the second person confirmed to have had the disease in Goma, a city of more than one million people. Goma, the capital of conflict-ridden North Kivu province, borders Rwanda and DRC’s gateway to the rest of the world.

Uganda has had three imported cases of Ebola. While it has successfully contained the spread of the disease, WHO experts warn of the potential dangers should the virus enter South Sudan, which is a particularly vulnerable, unstable country.

This is the 10th Ebola outbreak over the past four decades in the DRC. The executive director of WHO Emergencies, Michael Ryan, finds this current one presents unprecedented challenges.

WHO, Congo, Ebola
As the Ebola epidemic in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo enters its second year, experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) are voicing concern. Pixabay

Ryan notes previous outbreaks were generally small, self-contained, and often confined to remote rural areas. This has changed. He says factors such as a conflict, forced migration, unsafe health facilities, and disease amplification are increasing the risks from emerging diseases.

“So, the risk of an individual disease emerging may not change,” he said. “But, the impacts of those emergencies are changing. In that sense it is a new normal and we need to be ready…About 80 percent of our high-impact epidemic responses are in fragile, conflict-affected, and vulnerable countries. So, about 30 countries around the world represent around 80 percent of these high-impact epidemics.”

Ryan says African countries need international assistance to help them strengthen their fragile health systems. Without this aid, he warns, Congo and other nations will have great difficulty in tackling future outbreaks of Ebola and other emerging diseases.

The World Health Organization has deployed more than 700 international experts in the field. The U.N. agency says it is scaling up Ebola preparation measures in the neighboring countries, especially Burundi, Uganda, South Sudan and Rwanda, which are most at risk.

Also Read- Google Starts Testing its Own Monthly Gaming Subscription

It says frontline health workers are being vaccinated against the disease, more Ebola treatment centers are being set up, and more than 3,000 health workers are screening people for the virus at major points of entry. (VOA)

Next Story

Deadly Ebola Virus Spreads to New Areas in Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo

The World Health Organization said Friday that the deadly Ebola virus had spread to new areas in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo

0
Ebola, Virus, DRC
FILE - An ambulance waits next to a clinic to transport a suspected Ebola patient, in Goma, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Aug. 5, 2019. VOA

The World Health Organization said Friday that the deadly Ebola virus had spread to new areas in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. The number of cases was 2,934, including 1,965 deaths, it said.

Since mid-June, the WHO has reported an average of 80 new Ebola cases every week. It said, though, that these numbers have been falling in recent weeks.

Michael Ryan, executive director of WHO’s Health Emergencies Program, said two new health zones, Mwenga in South Kivu and Pinga in North Kivu, had reported cases in the past week, and that the risk of further spread remained high.

“The geographic extension of the virus has increased while the intensity of transmission has reduced in that time,” he said. “So we are winning against the virus in the intense transmission areas, but still failing to prevent the further extension of the virus into other areas before the disease is properly extinguished.”

Ebola, Virus, DRC
The World Health Organization said Friday that the deadly Ebola virus had spread to new areas in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. Pixabay

Ryan noted progress in containing the disease was being made in some areas. He said some powerful tools were being put to good use in tackling the disease. He said a vaccine now is available that is protecting people from becoming infected, which wasn’t the case in previous outbreaks.  Also, two new therapeutics are successfully saving the lives of people with Ebola who seek early treatment.

Community mistrust

But Ryan said pockets of community mistrust continued to hinder efforts to stop the epidemic. He said negative social media campaigns that have spread false information were creating difficulties in gaining community confidence.

He said, for instance, that some messages have said the vaccine is used to infect people, not protect them, and treatments are used to finish victims off.  “And there are WhatsApp groups and many social media conversations that are going on at that level,” he said. “And populations, like in every country in the world, are exposed to both the positive and negative media around any intervention like this.”

Also Read- Here’s a Look at What’s Happening in Amazon Region

Ryan said WHO must be smarter, quicker and more effective in getting communities to hear its messages about pathways to good health. He said the way to counter bad information is not by blocking it, but by putting out good information. Then, he said, it is up to the communities to choose the messages they believe will best ensure their own future. (VOA)