DR Congo on 'knife edge' after Ebola outbreak

Henrietta Strickland
May 26, 2018

"There is a high risk of further spread at a national level and high risk at the regional level" but the emergency committee felt "all elements of the response have been mobilized very quickly and robustly".

"The first patient, who was on the brink of being cured, left the hospital on Sunday evening", he said. Each patient was spirited away with the help of family members during the night last Monday. The other patient was taken home, where he died hours later, leaving health officials scrambling to locate their contacts across the city of 1.5 million people.

World Health Organization staff in Congo have likewise redoubled efforts to track all those who came into contact with these patients, said World Health Organization spokesman Tarik Jasarevic.

Health ministry sources told the Reuters news agency that two police officers were assigned to help track the two patients down.

The worldwide health agency said Wednesday there has been 58 cases since the outbreak was declared on May 8, of which 27 have been deaths.

The vaccination campaign eventually will move to cover the two other health zones where confirmed cases have been reported.

Doctors are especially anxious because, with a population of over 1 million people, Mbandaka is extremely susceptible to a fast-moving Ebola outbreak. There are now 28 confirmed Ebola cases, 21 probable ones and nine suspected.

"We're on the epidemiological knife edge of this response", he added at the United Nations body's annual assembly.

Peter Salama, WHO Deputy Director-General, Emergency Preparedness and Response, said the current outbreak has features of two previous typologies - a combination of rural villages, and larger towns and cities.

Health officials have worked tirelessly in recent weeks to control the spread of the virus and keep an accurate tracing map on those people who have may have encountered those with the disease.

One of the world's most notorious diseases, Ebola is a virus-caused haemorrhagic fever that spreads through contact with bodily fluids and can lead to fatal bleeding from internal organs, the mouth, eyes or ears.

The agency issued a new toll, saying there had been 58 cases since the outbreak was declared on May 8 - an increase of seven over figures issued on Tuesday - and said it was actively following more than 600 contacts.

Salama stressed though that the vaccine is "not a silver bullet", insisting it "is really the detective work of epidemiology that will make or break the response".

"We talk to them about what Ebola is, how it is transmitted, what the symptoms are", said Balthazar Moyongo, 50, a community worker in Mbandaka.

"We are following three separate chains of transmission", he said.

The UK is providing fresh support to help tackle the ongoing Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt will announce today (Wednesday 23 May).

WHO and the governments are working to roll out "pre-position" supplies that might be needed if the virus spreads, WHO Africa director Matshidiso Moeti told a World Health Assembly session. The other countries are Angola, Burundi, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, Zambia and, to a lesser extent, Uganda. Health officials later turned up at the church to vaccinate several people who had been in contact with her. "However, the most effective measures remain the respect of hygiene measures, the rapid management of cases, and the follow-up of contacts", he added.

There is no specific treatment for Ebola.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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