Published: Fri, May 19, 2017
Health Care | By Oscar Goodwin

Congo Ebola cases present high national but low global risk

Congo Ebola cases present high national but low global risk

It is the country's eighth outbreak of Ebola since 1976, when the virus was discovered, and the most notable outbreak worldwide since the devastating epidemic that killed more than 11,000 in West Africa in 2014-2016. They are the first case - a 39-year-old man - a person who cared for him and a man who drove him on a motorcycle to get help.

A spokesperson for the World Health Organization told Reuters on Friday that a person in the Democratic Republic of Congo had died after becoming infected with Ebola, a contagious virus that causes hemorrhagic fever.

Finally today, encouraging news from researchers in the United Kingdom: Despite reporting several "near misses" and possible exposures, foreign health care responders who traveled to West Africa during the 2014-2016 outbreak had nearly no Ebola antibodies in oral fluid samples.

An Ebola treatment centre has been set up in the region and a mobile clinic is due to follow.

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The WHO meanwhile remains "optimistic" that Kinshasa can rapidly bring the outbreak under control, the agency's regional chief for Africa said during the conference call. On 15 May, there were 20 cases reported, two confirmed by laboratory test and 3 deaths.

Health workers would also be given the vaccine.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States is also sending a renowned Ebola expert, Dr. Pierre Rollin, to Congo, along with epidemiologists, a spokeswoman said.

The first six months of the response to the outbreak are expected to cost the World Health Organization and aid groups $10 million, Salama said at the briefing.

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"We have not received an official request from the Government for this vaccine but they have been made aware that this possibility exists both to benefit from this new tool and also to add their support in the testing of this vaccine, she said, reiterating the experimental nature of the vaccine and expressed hope the authorities "will work with us to consider this and make a decision".

The vaccinations, which will not be provided to the general population but only to current cases' contacts, need to be kept at -80 degrees centigrade. "This is going to be an enormous challenge", Salama said. "But we are committed to working with ... partner agencies to implement a vaccination campaign if the [Congo] government gives us a green light".

"The preparations are in place".

"Transport is extremely hard in the area, and helicopter flights may be the only way to get there", she said by e-mail.

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