WHO Prepares for 'Worst Case Scenario' in Congo Ebola Outbreak

Kenny Tucker
May 12, 2018

A team from the Ministry of Health, supported by WHO and Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) visited the Ikoko-Impenge Health Area on 5 May 2018 and detected five active cases, two of whom were admitted to Bikoro General Hospital and three who were admitted in the health centre in Ikoko-Impenge. Eighteen of those have died, including one of the health care workers.

The new Ebola cases were identified on May 1 in a remote area of the country's north-west, near the town of Bikoro, near the Congo River.

Moreover, the disease is at the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in Central Africa.

The funds, he said, "in effect had the potential to function as something we very, very badly need, which is a contingency fund for significant large-scale disease outbreak". Reminiscing the last outbreak begs the question: Is screening enough?

Bikoro health zone has a population of about 163,000, with three hospitals and 19 health centers, most with limited functionality, according to WHO. Efforts to contain the latest outbreak have been hampered because the affected region of the country is very remote. "But, you can imagine in rural DRC where there is not even electricity, it is not easy thing to do", he said.

The WHO is working with authorities in Congo and is in discussions with the World Food Programme to arrange airlifting supplies to the affected areas.

The Organisation and the medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres already have specialists on the ground and hope to have a mobile laboratory up and running this weekend, he said.

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It can be spread through direct contact with another person's blood or body fluids which includes urine, saliva, sweat, feces, vomit, breast milk, and semen, objects that have come in contact with body fluids from an infected person, infected fruit bats and primates, and possibly contact with semen from a man who recovered from Ebola.

Vaccines along with doctors and epidemiologists are on standby in case they are needed, according to the UN. "That means extra use of thermometers", said NIS spokesman Sunday James, speaking via phone.

He stressed however that "this is an experimental vaccine", pointing out that it must be stored at temperatures as low as minus 80 degrees Celsius (-112 degrees Fahrenheit).

World Health Organization has tallied 32 suspected or confirmed cases in the northwestern area of Bikoro, on the shores of Lake Tumbathe near the border with the Republic of Congo, including 18 deaths, between April 4 and May 9.

"Public health emergency of worldwide concern" means an extraordinary event which is determined, as provided in these Regulations: "(i) to constitute a public health risk to other States through the global spread of disease and (ii) to potentially require a coordinated global response".

The White House said the funds were dormant and unnecessary given that the outbreak, which was far more severe and widespread than the current one, has been contained for years.

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