World Health Organization says Ebola poses a 'very high' risk to the Congo public

Desiree Steele
May 18, 2018

The ministry said just one person had been confirmed dead from the virus, but 25 people are suspected to have died from it.

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 East African Community (EAC) regional bloc said in a statement Friday it was on "high alert" following an Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

A panel will decide on Friday whether to declare a "public health emergency of global concern", which would trigger a larger response.

Mbandaka, a city of nearly 1.2 million people, is in a busy travel corridor in Congo's northwest Equateur province and is upstream from the capital, Kinshasa, a city of about 10 million.

Ilunga said Congo now is entering an urban phase of the outbreak, with higher spread potential. "We have urban Ebola, which is a very different animal from rural Ebola".

The WHO said there had been 21 suspected, 20 probable and three confirmed cases of Ebola between April 4 and May 15, a total of 44 cases, including 15 deaths. It will also cover communication with affected communities on risks and what behaviour to take to prevent the spread of the disease including psycho-social support and preparedness for safe and dignified burials.

Mr Salama said that isolation and rudimentary management facilities had been set up in Mbandaka.

Medical teams rushed to track down anyone thought to have had contact with infected people, while the World Health Organization continued shipping thousands of doses of an experimental vaccine.

The Health Ministry also informed that the vaccine which is still not licensed but proved effective during limited trials in West Africa will go in use from the weekend.

However, it needs to be stored at a temperature of between -60 and -80 C, which is a challenge in DR Congo because electricity supplies are unreliable.

"As more evidence comes in of the separation of cases in space and time, and healthcare workers getting infected, and people attending funerals and then travelling quite big distances - it's got everything we would worry about", he told Reuters.

The DRC is at its ninth Ebola outbreak since 1976. These can include chimpanzees, gorillas, monkeys, antelope and porcupines. As long as humans come in contact with them, there is always a possibility that Ebola could return.

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