Congo Ebola cases present high national but low global risk

Pierre Vaugeois
Mai 19, 2017

At least 20 people are sick and three have been killed by the virus, World Health Organization officials said.

So far, he told reporters, no other deaths have been reported, but the World Health Organization thinks that there are at least 20 cases of the Zaire strain of Ebola, with two confirmed so far by laboratory testing.

Sierra Leone's health officials check for Ebola in this March 2015 photo. They said there are less than 20 kilometers of paved roads in that corner of DRC, and no telecommunication infrastructure.

"As of now, we do not know the full extent of the outbreak, and as we deploy teams over the next few weeks, we will begin to understand ... exactly what we're dealing with", Salama told reporters on a telephone briefing.

The move comes after some people in the neighboring country of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) were discovered recently to be suffering from the deadly disease.

Health workers would also be given the vaccine.

Ebola has been causing sporadic outbreaks in various parts of Africa since 1976.

Finally today, encouraging news from researchers in the United Kingdom: Despite reporting several "near misses" and possible exposures, foreign health care responders who traveled to West Africa during the 2014-2016 outbreak had nearly no Ebola antibodies in oral fluid samples. It infected at least 28,000 people and killed more than 11,000 before it was brought under control. The three previous Ebola outbreaks in DRC involved dozens of cases as opposed to hundreds or thousands.

Mr. Salama said the risk to the wider world remains low, since Congo has a "proven track record of managing Ebola outbreaks".

But worldwide experts are on the ground, including some WHO staffers diverted from polio control efforts, and an Ebola treatment center is up and running with a second in the works, according to Matshidiso Rebecca Moeti, MBBS, the WHO Regional Director for Africa. The vaccine must be kept at -80 degrees C. "In an area without telecommunications, without road access, without large-scale electrification, this is going to be an enormous challenge", he said. The Lord's Resistance Army, a rebel group active in central Africa, is believed to have been active in the area.

Despite the problems, Medecins Sans Frontieres, a nonprofit aid group also known as MSF or Doctors Without Borders, has already set up one treatment center, said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa. He added, "I think there is a very good probability that control can be rapidly achieved". Therefore, Port Health Authorities have been advised to intensify existing screening procedures at all ports of entry with first responder teams being put on alert.

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