Medical

World Health Organization extremely concerned about Ebola ‘perfect storm’ in Congo

World Health Organization extremely concerned about Ebola ‘perfect storm’ in Congo

The World Health Organisation (WHO) is suspending parts of its effort to fight Ebola in Congo after a string of attacks by militants, the United Nations agency said on Tuesday. The first began in May and caused ripples of fear throughout the global health community when it reached Mbandaka, a city of more than 1 million on the banks of the heavily trafficked Congo and Ruki rivers.

On average, Ebola kills about half of those infected, but case fatality rates in individual outbreaks have varied from 25% to 90%.

In the almost two months since the outbreak was declared, there have been 150 confirmed and probable cases of the disease, and 100 people have died, as of 23 September.

The outbreak is the DRC's 10th since Ebola was discovered in the late 1970s and its second this year.

WHO's Emergency Response Chief and Australian epidemiologist, Peter Salama, told a news conference in Geneva that Ebola had claimed 100 lives since the deadly virus outbreak almost two months ago in North Kivu.




The latest violence, which sparked local anger, comes just three months before the Democratic Republic of Congo holds a fractious election to choose a successor to Joseph Kabila, the country's deeply-contested president.

"If WHO and its partners had to leave North Kivu. we would have grave concerns that this outbreak would not be able to be well controlled in the coming weeks or months". There are no plans for World Health Organization or other United Nations staff to pull out, he said.

Spokesman Mak Hazukay confirmed the civilian death toll of 14, but said six civilians and four military personnel had been wounded - lower figures than estimated by the civil society leader.

Being on lockdown there, even for a few days, prevents health workers from the crucial work of tracing people who may have come into contact with Ebola, Salama warned. In its daily report, the Ministry of Health stated that "many residents of the city of Beni took to the streets on Sunday to protest the growing insecurity in the area". Congo's ministry of health has gained a reputation for being particularly adept at containing the disease, but many factors in this current outbreak make that hard.

The experimental rVSV-ZEBOV vaccine, made by pharmaceutical company Merck, proved highly protective against the deadly virus in a major trial in Guinea, according to WHO.


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