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 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.
The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) declared a new outbreak of Ebola in the northwest of the country, where 17 people died from viral hemorrhagic fever over the past five weeks.
The Health Ministry was informed of the fatal cases near the town of Bikoro in Equateur province on May 3 and subsequently tested five patients suspected of carrying Ebola, the officials said in an emailed statement. Two of the samples tested positive for the Zaire strain of the disease, it said.
“Our country is facing a new epidemic of the Ebola virus which constitutes an international health emergency,” the ministry said. “We have the human resources well trained in this matter who have always been able to quickly control previous epidemics.”