Thursday, 24 May, 2018

New Ebola cases reported as World Health Organization head visits DRC

Health officials are preparing for the'worst Ebola outbreak yet South Sudan on alert as Ebola outbreak reported in Congo
Carol Daniels | 15 May, 2018, 15:05

The World Health Organization (WHO) said today that all cases have occurred in three health zones in the DRC: Bikoro (2 confirmed, 20 probable, 7 suspected cases), Iboko (3 probable, 5 suspected) and Wangata (2 probable).

The main jobs are checking to see how many people are infected and where; whether there have been past cases that went unreported; making sure people know how to bury the dead safely; and testing and treating people with suspected infections.

The global health agency says 39 people have been reported or confirmed infected with the virus, which kills between 20 percent and 90 percent of victims, depending on the strain and the care they get.

The WHO has received approval to use an experimental Ebola vaccine, using a "ring vaccination" approach, around the epicenter of the oubreak in the Congo. To date, 393 potential Ebola-carrying contacts have been identified and are being followed-up with.

Over the weekend, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) reported 7 more suspected cases of Ebola, raising the totals from April 4 through May 13 to 39 confirmed, suspected, and probable cases, including 19 deaths, for a case-fatality rate of 49%.

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Though additional information on the outbreak is limited, the event did not trigger a public health warning, the organisation said. "And we are taking it very seriously because it is close to Mbandaka, a city of 1 million people", Fall said, adding that there are two suspected cases in Mbandaka, and the patients are being held in isolation.

The WHO was widely criticised for reacting too slowly to the 2014-16 epidemic in West Africa. But the vaccine is still experimental as it does not have a licence. Three healthcare workers are reportedly also sickened with the disease. In addition to an importation license, the World Health Organization needs formal agreement on the research protocols with the government and local ethical review board approval for reasons of liability, and legal and insurance issues associated with use of experimental products, he added.

The WHO Director General, Deputy Director General for Emergency Preparedness and Response together with the WHO Regional Director for Africa will be in Kinshasa on 13 May to review operations and discuss further support to the Ministry of Health. The epicenter, a town called Bikoro, is hard to reach by vehicle because of poor roads between it and the regional capital, Mbandaka. The virus spreads through bodily fluids, including vomit and blood.

Personal protective equipment, body bags, boxes for transportation and interagency emergency health kits have been sent to the affected region.

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