Uncontrolled Ebola Outbreak Approaches 1st Anniversary
As the 1st year anniversary of the Ebola Zaire virus outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) approaches, the ‘risk of Ebola spreading to neighboring provinces and countries is very high.’
This risk assessment from the World Health Organization (WHO) is based upon 1,665 people who have died and about 12 new cases reported every day, in the current Ebola outbreak, which began in August 2018.
During a United Nations hosted meeting in Geneva, Switzerland on July 15, 2019, various health officials galvanized further support for the government-led effort to defeat the deadly disease.
“This outbreak of Ebola is a public health crisis taking place in an environment characterized by development challenges and deficiencies in our health system,” said the DRC’s Minister of Health, Dr. Oly Ilunga, in a press release.
With the Ebola outbreak primarily confined to the DRC’s provinces of North Kivu and Ituri, the response is at a critical juncture.
And, the deadly virus is spreading.
On July 14, 2019, the 1st case of Ebola was confirmed in Goma, a city of over 1 million people, located in southern DRC, on the northern shore of Lake Kivu. Almost 3,000 health workers in Goma have so far been vaccinated against the disease, says the WHO.
“Together with the government, we can and will end this outbreak. We have an effective vaccine,” said Dr. Tedros.
The DRC ministry of health and government officials have agreed on July 10, 2019, that Merck's Ebola Zaire vaccine candidate rVSVΔG-ZEBOV-GP (V920) will continue to be the only vaccine used in the ongoing Ebola outbreak.
The DRC’s Minister of Health said, ‘due to the lack of sufficient scientific evidence on the efficacy and safety of other Ebola vaccine candidates, as well as the risk of confusion among the population, it was decided that no additional clinical vaccine trials will be allowed throughout the country.’
As of July 11, 2019, a total of 158,830 people have been vaccinated with the rVSVΔG-ZEBOV-GP (v920) Ebola vaccine.
Speaking on behalf of the international community, Rt. Hon. Rory Stewart, said during the UN meeting, “We are on the edge with this crisis. We are essentially chasing Ebola – one of the world’s most deadly diseases. We need the international community to step up and stop this outbreak from escalating.”
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The Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) is a rare and deadly disease in people and nonhuman primates. People can get EVD through direct contact with an infected animal, such as a bat, nonhuman primate, or a sick or dead person infected with Ebola virus, says the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Ebola symptoms include fever, headache, joint and muscle aches, sore throat, and weakness, followed by diarrhea, vomiting, and stomach pain. Skin rash, red eyes, and internal and external bleeding may be seen in some patients.
Although the risk for Ebola is low for most travelers to DRC, other infectious disease risks remain high, including the risk for malaria.
To alert international travelers intending to visit the DRC, the CDC expanded its Level 2 Travel Alert regarding the Ebola Zaire outbreak. Additionally, the Canadian and UK health agencies issued similar travel advisories.
And, on July 15, 2019, the CDC published recommendations to ensure workers with potential occupational exposure to Ebola are healthy when they return to the United States.
Travelers to the DRC should seek medical care immediately if they develop fever, headache, body aches, sore throat, diarrhea, weakness, vomiting, stomach pain, rash, or red eyes during or after travel.
Furthermore, the US State Department updated its Level 3 Travel Advisory on April 9, 2019, saying to Americans 'Do not travel to the eastern DRC and the Kasai provinces.'
Dr. Tedros also announced at the UN meeting that he will reconvene the Emergency Committee as soon as possible to assess the latest developments and advise him accordingly.