Ebola outbreak in DRC is 'ongoing' but World Health Organization is 'cautiously optimistic'

Desiree Burns
June 10, 2018

Ebola is a serious illness that is transmitted to people from wild animals and spreads from human to human through the bodily fluids of people who exhibit symptoms.

Dr. Salama, the United Nations health agency's Deputy Director-General for Emergency Preparedness and Response, was fresh from a two-day visit to the DRC.

Since the launch of the vaccination program on May 21, 1,826 people have been vaccinated, the Ministry of Health of the Democratic Republic of Congo reported Wednesday.

"It's stabilising. We're optimistic, cautiously optimistic", he told Reuters. In summary, there has been very strong progress in outbreak response, " Salama said.

Of the two deaths, one occurred in the remote area of Bikoro, where the first cases were declared on May 8, and was confirmed by lab tests, it said. "And then if there is a confirmation of a case, every contact of those cases", he explained.

Salama warned, however, that even one undetected patient, who goes on to infect others could lead to a new spike of Ebola, a fever disease that can lead to bleeding and is highly lethal. The village has no electricity, and World Health Organization workers travel by motorcycles because four-wheeled vehicles have a hard time navigating area roads.

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This Ebola outbreak, initially located in the rural areas of the northwest and later reaching the urban area of Mbandaka, is the ninth to strike the Democratic Republic of Congo since the discovery of the virus in 1976 in the country. It's the identification and follow-up of all people who may have come into contact with a person infected with the infectious disease.

On the front lines of the outbreak, health officials use a tool called contact tracing to break the chain of transmission of the Ebola virus.

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.

"It's clearly very hard to evaluate efficacy of Ebola products in outbreaks", said Moorthy, who said scientists rely on efficacy data derived from experiments in non-human primates (monkey models).

"We're cautiously optimistic but there's a lot of very tough work to do in phase two before we say that we're on the top of this outbreak", said Dr. Salama.

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