A woman and her child were confirmed with Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s South Kivu region this week, which outlines new challenges in defeating the outbreak.
Health officials expressed their concerns that the latest cases were registered more than 700 km south from the initial epicenter of the outbreak .
According to the World Health Organization (WHO) the young woman (24) died, and her 7-month-old son, who is also confirmed to be infected with the Ebola virus, is receiving a relevant treatment.
Ebola disease has killed at least 1,900 people in Congo over the past year.
As the deadly Ebola virus outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo continues, with the first cases emerging in neighbouring Uganda this week, the EU has announced further emergency funding of €3.5 million, of which €2.5 million is for Uganda and €1 million for South Sudan. The aid package will strengthen rapid detection and reaction to Ebola cases. Today’s funding comes on top of the EU support for the Ebola response in the Democratic Republic of Congo and prevention and preparedness actions in Uganda, South Sudan, Rwanda and Burundi.
Christos Stylianides, Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis management and EU Ebola coordinator said: “We are doing all we can to save lives and stop further Ebola cases. Today, our main task is not only to help the Democratic Republic of Congo, but also assist neighbouring countries like Uganda. Here, our funding is helping with surveillance, work with local communities, and boosting local capacities for these countries to take timely and effective action. We are committed to continue our assistance to bring this outbreak to an end, for as long as it takes.”
In co-ordination with other international donors and in line with the World Health Organization’s Regional Strategic Ebola Response and Preparedness Plans, EU funding is contributing towards measures that include mainly:
- the strengthening of disease surveillance at community level, health facilities and points of entry (border crossing points);
- the training of rapid response teams;
- the training of healthcare and frontline workers on contact-tracing, infection prevention and control measures, psychosocial support, and safe and dignified burials;
- local capacity-building by equipping medical treatment facilities; and
- community awareness-raising.
EU humanitarian health experts in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda and the region are coordinating the response and they are in daily contact with the health authorities in these countries, the World Health Organization and operational partners.
In a controversial decision, the World Health Organization (WHO) has again declined to declare Africa’s latest Ebola outbreak global alert, although the desease has killed more than 1400 people and just crossed into a new country.
“It was the view of the committee that the outbreak is a health emergency in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the region, but it does not meet all criteria,” Preben Aavitsland, acting chair of an expert committee convened by WHO, said at a press conference in Geneva, Switzerland.
The committee gathered for the third time after news emerged this week that the virus had spread from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to neighboring Uganda, so far claimed lives of two people there—a 5-year-old boy and his grandmother—who had crossed the border.
Many infectious disease experts and public officials had expected, and called for WHO to declare a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) when Ebola broke out of the DRC.
*I’m baffled and deeply troubled by this decision,” Lawrence Gostin, director of the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.. “The status quo is no longer tenable. It is time to sound a global alert.”
World Health Organization (WHO) said it feared continued “intense transmission” of Ebola virus in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where deaths from a nine-month-old epidemic is 994 and expected to exceed 1,000 within hours.
The WHO plans to introduce an unlicensed new Ebola vaccine made by Johnson & Johnson, in addition to a Merck vaccine already being used, as “another tool in the toolbox”, Dr. Michael Ryan, Executive Director of the Geneva.WHO Health Emergencies Programme, told a news briefing in Geneva.
However security incidents continue to plague the response to the outbreak, including a would-be assault on a facility, slowing vaccination and daily checks on some 12,000 people potentially exposed to the virus, Ryan underlined. Since January there were 119 separate attacks, and 85 health personnel either injured or killed.
Militia violence in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has prevented aid workers from reaching some suspected cases in an outbreak of Ebola that has so far took lives of 44 people, the World Health Organization (WHO) said.
At least 1,500 people are in high risk group exposed to the deadly virus in North Kivu province but the violence there prevents the officials from adequate measures to identify all the chains by which it is spreading in the east of the country.
“We don’t know if we are having all transmission chains identified. We expect to see more cases as a result of earlier infections and these infections developing into illness,” WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said at a news briefing in Geneva.
“The worst-case scenario is that we have these security blind spots where the epidemic could take hold that we don’t know about,” he said.
The WHO, using figures compiled with Congo’s Health Ministry, said confirmed and probable cases numbered 78 in total, including 44 deaths. About 1,500 people have been identified as contacts of infected patients transmitting the disease, which causes fever, vomiting and diarrhea.
The outbreak is spreading across the lush farmlands of eastern Congo. Its epicenter is the town of Mangina in North Kivu province and it has already reached neighbouring Ituri province.
Congo has experienced 10 Ebola outbreaks since the virus was discovered on the Ebola River in 1976, and it has altogether took away some 900 lives, according to registered cases.
The European Commission will provide €1.8 million in humanitarian aid to support the ongoing response to the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The funding brings the total EU response to Ebola so far in 2018 to € 3.43 million. “Since the current Ebola outbreak was declared on 8 May 2018, the EU has immediately supported the efforts of the World Health Organisation and the national authorities to contain the spread of the disease. Previous outbreaks taught us a valuable lesson: we cannot be complacent with Ebola. We cannot let our guard down. This is why today I am strengthening our EU support. This funding will help our humanitarian partners and the authorities to fight and contain the further spread of Ebola,” said Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management and EU Ebola Coordinator Christos Stylianides.
The EU aid will support the coordination and logistical operations of the ongoing response, control and prevention of infections, surveillance of exit/entry points of Ebola-affected areas and safe burials. It will also provide general support to primary health centres in the affected areas. The funding is part of overall EU support for the outbreak, which includes the activation of EU’s Civil Protection Mechanism, whereby an isolation system was deployed from Norway to transport quarantined patients in need of specialised treatment. The European Commission’s humanitarian air service ECHO Flight is also providing a shuttle service from Kinshasa to transport personnel and medical supplies to the affected areas.
The Ebola outbreak in Democratic Republic of Congo has spread from the countryside into urban areas, prompting fears that it will be difficult to control.
Health Minister Oly Ilunga Kalenga confirmed a case in Mbandaka, a city of a million inhabitants at more than hundred kilometres distance from where the places where first outbreak was confirmed.
Mbandaka is a busy transportation hub with routes to Kinshasa.
At least 44 people are considered to have been infected with Ebola and 23 deaths are being investigated.
Ebola, or haemorrhagic fever, is a serious viral illness that causes internal bleeding and usually proves fatal. It can spread rapidly through contact with small amounts of bodily fluid and its early flu-like symptoms are not always obvious. Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) is a rare and deadly disease in people and nonhuman primates. The viruses that cause EVD are located mainly in sub-Saharan Africa. EVD spreads through direct contact with an infected animal, for example a bat or nonhuman primate, or in most cases with a sick or dead human infected with Ebola virus.
At present there is no approved vaccine or treatment for EVD. Research on EVD focuses on finding the virus’ natural host, developing vaccines to protect at-risk populations, and discovering therapies to improve treatment of the disease. The first EVD outbreaks occurred in remote villages in Central Africa, near tropical rainforests. The 2014–2016 outbreak in West Africa involved major urban areas as well as rural ones.