WHO prepares for Ebola outbreak in Democratic Republic of Congo

According to a recent report from the WHO, there has been an outbreak of the Ebola virus in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Tests have been carried out in a small testing facility in the Bikoro province, which is in the north west region of the country. The lab results have confirmed two cases of the disease.

In the last five weeks there have been 34 suspected cases of Ebola, resulting in 17 deaths; three of these patients were health care workers. The Bikoro health zone is around 400 km from Mbandaka and has a population of 163,000. Despite its reasonably sized population, the WHO says that the area has limited functionality in terms of health centres and hospitals. The remote location of the area will also make the response efforts much more challenging.

What is Ebola?

Ebola is a rare disease. It was initially transmitted to people from wild animals and spreads in people and primates through close contact. The fatality rates for Ebola are very high at 50%, and there are five different known strains of the virus. Between 2014 and 2016, there were over 28,000 cases in west Africa – resulting in 11,310 deaths. This was the largest outbreak of the virus ever recorded, and cases were reported in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. This latest outbreak is the ninth that’s been reported since the virus was discovered.

WHO Response

In its latest statement, the Ministry of Health said it had “taken all necessary measures to respond promptly and effectively to this new epidemic of Ebola in the DRC’s national territory”, adding that “health authorities and partners to support the national response.” A health team from the ministry is now carrying out research and managing new cases in the region.

Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO’s regional director for Africa said: “We will gather more samples, conduct contact tracing, engage the communities with messages on prevention and control, and put in place methods for improving data collection and sharing. WHO will work closely with Speaking on behalf of the Democratic Republic of Congo Minister of Health, Lambert Matuku, the Minister of State and Labor, said, it is “a worrisome sanitary situation.”

The WHO also hopes to stop the spread of Ebola in the surrounding areas by increasing funding and providing additional vaccines and health workers if needed. Spokesman Tarik Jasarevik said: “WHO is in discussions with the government and, if pertinent, will seek approval from the national regulatory authority and the Ethics Review committee to use vaccines against Ebola as part of the response. The estimated budget for the international response is US $18 million for a three-month operation.”

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