WHO raises Ebola health risk to 'very high' in DR Congo

18 May, 2018, 15:50 | Author: Inez Murphy
  • Congo's Ebola risk 'very high' as confirmed virus cases rise

Mbandaka had three suspected cases in addition to the confirmed case.

Democratic Republic of Congo faces a "very high" public health risk from Ebola because the disease has been confirmed in a patient in a big city, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday, raising its assessment from "high" previously.

Currently, WHO said it considers the public health risk to be high at the national level, moderate at the regional level and low at the global level.

Meanwhile, the public relations officer in the same ministry, Doreen Motshegwa, said their health officials are on high alert and have put measures in place to ward off the spread of the Ebola outbreak in the DRC.

"The Minister of health of the country confirmed case in the city of Mbandaka with a million people in 130 km from the area where it was first recorded cases of the disease this month", - is told in the message.

The health ministry said two new deaths have been tied to the cases, including one in a suburb of Mbandaka.

The spread of the virus from rural areas into a city has raised fears it could quickly spread and become harder to control.

"Urban Ebola is a very different phenomenon to rural Ebola because we know that people in urban areas can have far more contacts so that means that urban Ebola can result in an exponential increase in cases in a way that rural Ebola struggles to do".

"This is a concerning development, but we now have better tools than ever before to combat Ebola", said Tedros Ghebreyesus, the Director-General of WHO.

But WHO advised against any restriction of travel and trade to the Democratic Republic of the Congo based on the now available information.

He said the disease could have been taken there by people who attended the funeral of an Ebola victim in Bikoro, south of Mbandaka, before travelling to the city.

The WHO statement said there had been 21 suspected, 20 probable and 3 confirmed cases of Ebola between April 4 and May 15, a total of 44 cases, including 15 deaths.

The outbreak tests the new experimental Ebola vaccine, which proved highly effective in the West Africa outbreak a few years ago.

With the poor infrastructure and electricity supply in Congo, the only challenge that remains with the vaccine is that it has to store it in a cold temperature. It spreads between people through direct contact with the bodily fluids of a person who is infected with or has died from the virus.

There was a serious outbreak of Ebola in Africa between 2014 and 2015, with the crisis mainly affecting Guinea, Libera and Sierra Leone.

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