Ebola: WHO Director General Arrives Kinshasa To Assess Needs For Curtailment

Ebola: WHO Director General Arrives Kinshasa To Assess Needs For Curtailment

Ebola: WHO Director General Arrives Kinshasa To Assess Needs For Curtailment

The World Health Organisation (WHO) confirmed the killer disease has reared its ugly head again in Africa between April 4 and May 13 in devastating figures released today.

West Africa experienced the largest recorded outbreak of Ebola over a two-year period beginning in March 2014; a total of 28,616 confirmed, probable and suspected cases were reported in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, with 11,310 deaths, according to the WHO. The idea is to vaccinate people who know someone who has been infected and the people who know those people, in an expanding "ring" around the infections. The epicenter, a town called Bikoro, is hard to reach by vehicle because of poor roads between it and the regional capital, Mbandaka. At least 18 of those people have died.

Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, has arrived Kinshasa, capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo), to assess the needs of Ebola response first-hand.

"This is an experimental vaccine, not a licensed product, and there are a lot of complications", including ensuring it is stored at the correct temperature, Salama said. Three health care workers are among the cases and one has died. Contact tracing efforts are already underway.

Last week, Peter Salama, deputy director-general of emergency preparedness and response at the World Health Organization, pointed out that use of the vaccine comes with many challenges, as it needs to be stored long-term at temperatures between minus 60 and minus 80 degrees Celsius (minus 76 to minus 112 Fahrenheit).

It said 393 people who identified as contacts of Ebola patients were being followed up. On Sunday, they traveled with the country's health minister, Dr. Oly Ilunga, to Bikoro to view operations and meet with response teams and local leaders.

The WHO Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom, said based on the current assessment and response need, the estimated budget for the global response is $18 million (N6.4 billion) for a three-month operation.

The vaccine, developed by Merck in 2016, has proven safe and effective in human trials, but it is still experimental as it does not yet have a licence. The first known outbreak, in 1976, happened there. While that epidemic started with an Ebola outbreak in a small border village in Guinea, the latest outbreak in the DRC similarly started near the national border, in the market town of Bikoro that is accessible by major rivers.

The WHO and others have deployed many experts to the area, including epidemiologists, people skilled at contact tracing, and anthropologists who are already learning about local customs.

Republished with permission from STAT.

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