Ebola patients escape from treatment in Congo, raising fears virus could spread

Ebola patients escape from treatment in Congo, raising fears virus could spread

The White House proposed eliminating $252 million (Sh25.5 billion) in Ebola-containment contingency funding on May 8 - the same day that the Democratic Republic of Congo confirmed the return of the deadly disease.

The total number of possible Ebola cases, including those that have yet to be confirmed, stands at 54 on Saturday: six are suspected cases, 13 are considered likely and 35 have been confirmed by laboratory tests using biological samples.

Last Thursday, the first case was reported in Mbandaka - a city of around 1.2 million people that lies on the Congo River, acting as a transport hub to Brazzaville and Kinshasa downstream and to Bangui, upstream.

The outbreak's potential for spread within DRC and to surrounding countries has the WHO and other response agencies on high alert, but a panel of expert advisers said last Friday that the situation does not now constitute a global health emergency.

The top two priorities are Central African Republic and the Republic of Congo near the epicenter of the outbreak, Matshidiso Moeti, WHO's director for Africa, told the WHA session.

Officials are now desperately trying to convince sceptical residents about the severity of the most recent outbreak, which has killed 27 since April/. The disease spreads by contacting bodily fluids of infected people, including the dead.

It is the ninth Ebola outbreak in Democratic Republic of Congo in four decades.

United States action is generally credited as a key factor in containing the virus that caused the Ebola outbreak in one of the poorest parts of the world.


The DRC's health minister Oly Ilunga Kalenga, MD, PhD, today tweeted pictures of himself receiving the experimental Ebola vaccine, given that he's a frontline health worker.

Vaccinators will need to carefully explain that some people who receive the vaccine may still get sick because protection is not immediate or because some of them may already have been infected when they were vaccinated, Berkley said.

The article notes that Ebola is a "neglected tropical disease" since an effective vaccine is relatively new and the disease was discovered over 40 years ago.

"It could go either way over the next few weeks and we are working around the clock to make sure it (goes) in the right direction", he told AFP after the meeting.

The urban setting sets this outbreak apart from the eight others that have struck Congo since the 1970s in mostly containable, rural settings.

The WHO has yet to declare the outbreak an emergency after hearing from officials in the DRC. "This is highly targeted ring vaccination where concerned or probable cases are identified and then each and every contact is traced and vaccinated, and then the contacts of those contacts are then traced and vaccinated, forming protective rings around that case - to protect the people themselves - the contacts, but also to prevent further community transmission".

She said World Health Organization among other things was "working very hard" with the nine surrounding countries to ensure they are sufficiently prepared in case the virus spreads beyond DRC. But the virus has spread to an urban area in DR Congo, sparking fears that it could prove hard to control.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said simply: "We are watching it around the clock, 24-7". The programme also contains an additional contingency mechanism, to be drawn upon in the event of serious outbreaks, and use of which is allowing the United Kingdom to respond swiftly to the current situation in the DRC. The vaccination drive will initially target 600 people.

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