World Health Organization says Ebola situation in DRC shows promise

World Health Organization says Ebola situation in DRC shows promise

Two more people have died of Ebola in northwestern Democratic Republic of Congo, bringing the toll to 27 in almost a month, the health ministry said on Wednesday.

"The outbreak is ongoing", said Dr. Peter Salama, WHO deputy director-general of emergency preparedness and response, in a webcast on Twitter.

Four of the five approved drugs are now in the country. In summary, there has been very strong progress in outbreak response, " Salama said. The newest confirmed case is in rural Iboko and is linked to a probable Ebola death on May 20, the ministry said.

"Contact tracing has been a huge challenge in this hard-to-reach area", Salama said, describing Iboko as a remote community in a heavily forested part of the DRC.

The current outbreak - the ninth to hit the DRC since Ebola was identified in 1976 - involves the same strain of the virus that struck the West African states of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone in 2013-15, killing more than 11,300 people.

An AP report Friday quoted DRC's health ministry saying another Ebola case had been confirmed even as the pace of new cases slows down. That has complicated efforts to track contacts of those infected.

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Phase 1 of the vaccination campaign, a plan to protect urban centers and towns, has "gone well", said Salama.

The Ebola outbreak coincides with political tension in Congo over preparations for long-postponed December elections as well as violence by armed groups in several provinces.

The Ministry of Health, together with the World Health Organization (WHO), Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), and other global organizations, have been carrying out a vaccination campaign in the three areas for the past two weeks, and about 1,400 people have already been vaccinated. Health workers monitor close contacts for 21 days and isolate them should they become ill.

"This is a major logistical and boots-on-the-ground epidemiological endeavor now", Salama said, adding that work there will go on for weeks.

Clinicians working in the treatment centres will make decisions on which drug to use as deemed helpful for their patients, and appropriate for the setting.

World Health Organization however, said in the context of an outbreak characterized by high mortality, it can be ethically appropriate to offer individual patients investigational interventions on an emergency basis outside clinical trials. "We've learned the hard way in the past to never underestimate Ebola".

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