Congo Ebola cases present high national but low global risk

WHO Confirms Ebola Outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo

WHO Confirms Ebola Outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo

The number of suspected cases of Ebola has risen to 18 from nine in almost a week in an isolated part of Democratic Republic of Congo, where three have died from the disease since April 22, the World Health Organization said Thursday. In an update on an outbreak that officials believe began in late April, the United Nations health agency said there were two confirmed and 18 suspected cases of Ebola infection.

On 12 May, the first case of Ebola was confirmed in DRC. It is 1400 kilometres from Kinshasa and 350 kilometres from the nearest major town, Kisangani, ” said Dr. Peter Salama, the WHO Executive Director for Health and Emergencies Programmes, speaking to the press in Geneva.

The first six months of the response to the outbreak are expected to cost the World Health Organization and aid groups $10 million, Salama said at the briefing.

A spokesperson for the World Health Organization told Reuters on Friday that a person in the Democratic Republic of Congo had died after becoming infected with Ebola, a contagious virus that causes hemorrhagic fever.

Congolese Ministry of Health, WHO, MSF and Alima are responding swiftly to the situation, with the deployment of experienced staff and equipment near the epicentre of the epidemic.

"The challenge is getting to the cases", said Moeti, when addressing the possible risk of the virus spreading to other parts of the country.

Ebola was blamed for more than 11,000 deaths in West Africa during 2013-2016.

"Congo has extensive experience in addressing, dealing with, and controlling Ebola outbreaks", she said.

"We've also learned never, ever, to underestimate the Ebola virus disease, and we'll be remaining vigilant and ensure we have a no-regrets approach to this outbreak as we move forward", he said.

Because the Ebola vaccine is still considered experimental, Congo's government must give special permission for it to be used.

During that epidemic, a vaccine made by Merck was successfully tested in hard-hit Guinea.

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. "[We are] putting all these preparations in place so it can go at that speed as soon as we get the green light".

Members of WHO-led "surge team" reached the area Wednesday, he said. "I'm very optimistic it is going to get us to where we'd like to be: a controlled, short-lived outbreak of Ebola as they have seen in the past in this country".

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