Spread of deadly Ebola virus sparks emergency World Health Organization meeting

Kenny Tucker
May 18, 2018

The WHO will be deploying about 30 experts to scrutinise and inspect the city, is working along with the Ministry of Health and also believes in engaging with the communities to prevent and treat and report about new cases.

Previously, the DRC had successfully managed the Ebola outbreaks but the hemorrhagic fever spread into an urban area is posing a major challenge to combat the outbreak.

"We are entering a new phase of the Ebola outbreak that is now affecting three health zones, including an urban health zone", Ilunga said, adding he was anxious because Mbandaka is densely populated and at the crossroads of Equateur province. This is the ninth Ebola outbreak in Congo since the 1970s, and the first since May of past year, when five confirmed cases resulted in four deaths.

In a statement, the United Nations agency said WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus would convene an emergency committee to discuss the matter.

So far, 23 people have reportedly died and until Thursday, there were more than 40 suspected or confirmed cases. Ebola is fatal in about 50 per cent of cases. The last major outbreaks have affected people across West Africa between 2014 and 2016. That new death had epidemiological ties to another case. Ebola is thought to be spread over long distances by fruit bats and is often transmitted to humans via contaminated bushmeat.

Persistent rain and lack of roads has hampered the effort to contain the outbreak. Before Thursday, cases had been confirmed only in Bikoro, a small town whose health clinic has "limited functionality", according to the WHO.

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Part of the difficulty in deploying the vaccine is that it must be transported and stored at between minus-60 and minus-80 degrees Fahrenheit, which requires powerful refrigerators.

While there is no specific treatment for the deadly disease, which has a 90 percent fatality rate, World Health Organization has shipped thousands of doses of an experimental vaccine to the region. More than one team is ready to be dispatched he said and each of these would work in shifts of four to six weeks. "And we are taking it very seriously", Dr. Ibrahima-Soce Fall, the World Health Organization regional emergency director for Africa, said Monday.

"With the new case confirmed in Mbandaka, the scenario has changed, and it has become most serious and worrying, since the disease is now affecting an urban area". Rapid detection of symptoms, immediate isolation of suspected cases and safe burial for those who succumb to the disease are paramount in ending an outbreak.

"As more evidence comes in of the separation of cases in space and time, and healthcare workers getting infected, and people attending funerals and then travelling quite big distances - it's got everything we would worry about", he told Reuters.

In the next few days, MSF plans delivery of several tons of supplies, including medical kits; protection and disinfection kits; logistic and hygiene kits; and palliative drugs to Mbandaka.

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