NewsCentral AfricaCongo Ebola outbreak poses high regional risk, says WHO


Posted on Monday, 06 August 2018 11:26

Congo Ebola outbreak poses high regional risk, says WHO

By Reuters

June 2, 2018, a health worker checks people's temperatures as they disembark a plane at the airport in Kinshasa, Congo. Photo: Sam Mednick/AP/SIPAAn Ebola outbreak in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo is likely to spread over tens of kilometres and poses a high regional risk given its proximity to borders, a World Health Organization (WHO) official said on Thursda(August 02).

"WHO said the new cluster of cases is occurring in an environment which is very different from previous locations as it is an active conflict zone, and added that the major barrier will be safely accessing the affected population. The agency added that it is working closely with the Government to quickly address the outbreak," said UN deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq.

The latest outbreak was announced on Wednesday (August 01) by the government. It was issued eight days after the ministry of health declared the official end of an Ebola outbreak in Equateur Province, some 2,500 km from North Kivu.

The Government informed WHO that four out of six samples tested positive for Ebola virus at the Institut National de Recherche Biomédicale (INRB) in Kinshasa but that further testing is ongoing.

A total of 29 died during the most recent outbreak, which was declared over when two weeks had passed without a new case emerging, following the release of the last patient from care.

Ebola is believed to be transported long distances by bats and can find its way into bush meat sold at local markets and eaten.

Once present in humans, it causes haemorrhagic fever, vomiting and diarrhoea and is spread through direct contact with body fluids.

Outbreak poses new challenges

Over 11,300 people died from Ebola in West Africa between 2013 to 2016.

The response to Congo's previous outbreak was considered a success despite the 33 deaths, as the use of a vaccine made by Merck helped contain the virus.

The kind of Ebola in the latest outbreak has been confirmed as the Zaire strain that the Merck vaccine protects against, Congo's health ministry said late on Thursday.

This should allow health officials to again use what has become the greatest weapon against Ebola epidemics to date.

Still, this outbreak poses new challenges. Eastern Congo is a tinderbox of conflicts over land and ethnicity stoked by decades of on-off war and this could hamper efforts to contain the virus.

North Kivu hosts over 1 million displaced people. The province shares borders with Rwanda and Uganda with a great deal of cross-border movement due to the trade activities, which could increase the risk of possible spread of the virus.

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