Congo Ebola cases present high national but low global risk

Friday, 19 May, 2017

Mohney G. New Ebola outbreak leaves 3 dead in Democratic Republic of Congo [news release].

So far just two cases have been confirmed by laboratory testing. Two days later, the DRC Ministry of Health officially declared an outbreak of the virus.

There are now 17 other suspected cases in Likati, which is in one of the most remote areas of Congo.

Pete Salama, executive director of WHO's health emergencies program, said the first - or "index" - case was reported April 22. However, he added: "We can not underestimate the logistic and practical challenges associated with this response in a very remote and insecure part of the country". "In an area without telecommunications, without road access, without large-scale electrification, this is going to be an enormous challenge", he said. It is also an area that has been subject to insecurity and displacement. Additionally, it has been subject to insecurity and displacement, particularly due to the ongoing conflict in the Central African Republic.

With the help of the United Nations, the first search teams, led by the DRC's Ministry of Health, flew into Likati on Wednesday.

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

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Their first priority is the "basic detective work" of tracing more than 400 people who are contacts of the known cases, Salama said, followed by case management and isolation. Immediate repairs to air strips and telecommunications are also being carried out.

The campaign against the virus is expected to cost 10 million dollars over the next six months, according to WHO.

While WHO waits for the vaccines to be approved, the organization is making sure the treatment can be used immediately after permission has been granted by working with Guinea's government to move equipment over and discovering the outbreak's epidemiology.

The trials there have been "promising" and the vaccines has proven to be efficient and safe so far, Salama told reporters. To use the vaccine, Salama said the World Health Organization would need a fully-approved protocol signed off by regulators, the government and ethics committees, as well as the logistics in place to gain informed consent from all those offered it and to transport and store it at the required minus 80 degrees Celsius.

Ebola has been causing sporadic outbreaks in various parts of Africa since 1976.