October 20, 2018

Ebola outbreak in DRC is 'ongoing' but WHO is 'cautiously optimistic'

10 June 2018, 09:28 | Silvia Roy

Ebola outbreak in DRC is 'ongoing' but WHO is 'cautiously optimistic'

Ebola outbreak in DRC is 'ongoing' but WHO is 'cautiously optimistic'

Kinshasa, Jun 7 (Prensa Latina) The Ministry of Health announced today that it held an awareness day with 50 traditional doctors (healers) seeking support in the fight against the Ebola epidemic in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Emergency Health Chief, Peter Salama, said this at a news conference in Geneva.

Archbishop Fridolin Ambongo Besungu, co-adjutor archbishop of Kinshasa who previously served in the Diocese of Mbandaka-Bikoro, where the outbreak occurred, chose to suspend administering sacraments to protect churchgoers from contracting the disease.

"This tells us the response is having an impact in those two locations", said Salama, referring to the robust ring vaccination campaign launched 2 weeks ago with Merck's VSV-EBOV.

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"Contact tracing has been a huge challenge in this hard-to-reach area", Salama said, describing Iboko as a remote community in a heavily forested part of the DRC.

Ebola is a serious illness that is transmitted to people from wild animals and spreads from human to human through the bodily fluids of people who exhibit symptoms.

"It's extremely likely the vaccine has had a positive effect", said Salama, basing his assessment on the fact that in Mbandaka there have been no confirmed cases since mid-May and a large portion of contacts have been vaccinated there.

"Phase one, to protect urban centers and towns, has gone well and we can be cautiously optimistic".

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On the front lines of the outbreak, health officials use a tool called contact tracing to break the chain of transmission of the Ebola virus.

While Ebola's spread to a major city has complicated efforts to track all contacts of those infected, the presence of the virus in Iboko poses another world of problems.

This is Congo's ninth Ebola outbreak since 1976, when the hemorrhagic fever was first identified. Health workers monitor close contacts for 21 days and isolate them should they become ill.

However, the Congolese government is considering other experimental treatments that it is evaluating for use. No matter how long this Ebola outbreak continues, the world faces critical tests in its battle against deadly pathogens.

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"We're cautiously optimistic but there's a lot of very tough work to do in phase two before we say that we're on the top of this outbreak and we've learned the hard way in the past never to underestimate Ebola", Mr Salama said.

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