Published: Sat, May 12, 2018
Medicine | By Ray Hunter

WHO's leader to visit Congo this weekend amid Ebola outbreak

WHO's leader to visit Congo this weekend amid Ebola outbreak

"Our top priority is to get to Bikoro to work alongside the government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and partners to reduce the loss of life and suffering related to this new Ebola virus disease outbreak", Dr. Peter Salama, WHO deputy director-general of emergency preparedness and response, said. The WHO estimates that the 3-month air bridge cost to be $2.4 million.

Cases have already been reported in three separate locations around Bikoro, and Mr Salama warned there was a clear risk the disease could spread to more densely populated areas.

Mortality rates of Ebola fever, according to the World Health Organization, are extremely high, with the human case fatality rate ranging from 50 percent to 89 percent, depending on viral subtype. Two of those cases are confirmed to be Ebola. When we talk about Ebola virus now, the shadow of the 2014 West African epidemic hangs heavy as a warning of what can happen.

This is the ninth outbreak of Ebola virus disease in the DRC since the discovery of the virus in the country in 1976.

Salama said that World Health Organization was preparing for the green light and hoped to have a mobile laboratory operational over the weekend, and that both World Health Organization and the medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres already had a team on the ground.

Salama also said the United Nations health organisation hoped to have a mobile lab up and running on site this weekend.

The Kenyan government has come out to speak following Ebola outbreak in DRC.

Personal protective equipment has been sent to the affected region, and the WHO is planning to have mobile laboratories running by the weekend, after receiving approval from the country's Ministry of Health. Despite it occurring outside an urban area, this particular outbreak may be harder to contain because it has already spread across 56 kilometres.

WHO has provided technical and operations support to the Ministry of Health and Partners in the activation of multi-partner multi-agency Emergency Operations Centre to coordinate the response at all levels. We probably won't know for sure what went wrong in this outbreak, but blame has been placed on the slow response of the global community, the fragility of the region's health services, and the failure of public health campaigns to reach all people.

He said, however, that there are many complications in using an experimental vaccine, and it's not a simple logistical effort. Family and friends who care for sick individuals are also at heightened risk for Ebola exposure. The virus is also spread through sexual contact.

"This is a highly complicated, sophisticated operation in one of the most hard terrains on earth", Salama said. A new experimental vaccine has been shown to be highly effective against the virus, though quantities are now limited.

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