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XINHUA NEWS SERVICE REPORTS FROM THE AFRICAN CONTINENT

 
WHO head says Ebola vaccinating to
start, so far response is “encouraging”

GENEVA (Xinhua) -- The response to the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo) has been encouraging, and vaccinating should start at the weekend, World Health Organization (WHO) Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Friday.

Tedros said he returned from a DRC visit to assess the situation on Monday and spoke to journalists here one day after WHO reported a new case of the Ebola virus had been confirmed in an area of Mbandaka, a city of nearly 1.2 million people in northwestern DRC.

The DRC Health Ministry on Friday announced 11 new confirmed Ebola cases in the northwest of the country.

The total number of Ebola cases in the DRC is now 45, including 10 suspected cases, 21 probable cases and 14 confirmed cases, according to a statement issued by the health ministry late Thursday.

“I think the response is very positive,” said Tedros, noting he was particularly pleased to see from partners that “there is a political consensus building” that “what happened in 2014 (in West Africa) should not happen now.”

Nine neighboring countries of the DRC have been told they are at high risk of spread and have been supported with equipment and personnel, said WHO.

Dr. Peter Salama, a medical epidemiologist from Australia who leads the Health Emergencies Program at WHO, said vaccinating was to be conducted through “ring vaccination” starting with 150 contacts and moving to 8,000 to 10,000 people in the first phase.

Because of the confirmed cases in Mbandaka, an urban center, “we have to start there,” he said and that tracking down some contacts would lead to remote areas only reached by motorcycle.

In terms of funding, Salama said the plan is to come up with 26 million U.S. dollars over three months and there are currently pledges or firm commitment for about nine million dollars, “so we are 17 million dollars short.”

“That may sound like a considerable sum of money, but let’s remember that the Ebola West Africa outbreak two years cost the international community between three and four billion U.S. dollars. So, this is a relatively small investment if we can stamp out this outbreak now,” Salama said.

Tedros explained that thousands of people all around the world have been mobilized to fight this Ebola outbreak and some countries have committed teams and equipment to fight the disease.

Ebola is a highly infectious disease spread through contact with even small amounts of bodily fluid of an infected person. Its early flu-like symptoms are not always easy to detect.

The Ebola epidemic hit Africa between late 2013 and 2016, causing more than 11,000 deaths in nearly 30,000 cases, according to UN statistics.

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EARLIER REPORTS:

Four new cases of Ebola confirmed in northwest  Democratic Republic of Congo

KINSHASA  Democratic Republic of Congo (Xinhua) -- Four new cases of the Ebola hemorrhagic fever epidemic were confirmed Saturday in the Equateur province in northwestern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Minister of Health Oly Ilunga announced in a statement.

The four new cases were confirmed in the health zone of Iboko, one of the three health zones affected by the epidemic, according to the statement.

The numbers of confirmed cases thus increased from 17 to 21 following the latest test by the on-site laboratory in Equateur province since the epidemic was officially declared.

These results are part of the daily tests that the mobile laboratory team of the Ministry of Health delivers in collaboration with a team of the World Health Organization (WHO), which  was deployed since the declaration of the epidemic in the area.

According to the WHO, the particularity of this preventive campaign is to vaccinate circles of people who have been in direct contact with a patient and the so-called “contact of contacts,” or the second-level contacts of a patient.

A new batch of 3,200 doses of Ebola vaccine, provided by the WHO, is expected in Kinshasa to complete the first doses arrived last Wednesday. 

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Democratic Republic of Congo confirms three new cases of Ebola

KINSHASA Democratic Republic of Congo (Xinhua) -- At least three new cases of Ebola were confirmed Friday in northwestern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the country’s health minister announced in the evening.

DRC Minister of Health Oly Ilunga said in a statement that the three new cases have been confirmed in the health zone of Wangata, one of the three health zones affected by the epidemic in the province of Equateur.

The confirmation increased the number of people affected by Ebola in the country to 17 from 14 based on the test results in the mobile laboratory on the spot.

On Friday, the minister inspected the city of Mbandaka, which has a population of nearly 1.2 million in northwestern DRC and is a major transportation hub with routes to the capital Kinshasa.

The city already has reports of Ebola cases.

During a working session with Mbandaka officials in charge of local response to the epidemic, Ilunga once again stressed the importance of monitoring the contacts with the affected.

He said that it is very important to anticipate the evolution of the epidemic and to break the chain of transmission.

The African country received Wednesday thousands of doses of vaccine against the Ebola virus sent by the WHO. The vaccination campaign will be targeted at exposed health professionals, those who have been in contact with confirmed cases.

According to the health ministry’s statement on Thursday, the total number of Ebola cases in the DRC was 45, including 10 suspected cases, 21 probable cases and 14 confirmed cases.

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China ready to offer expertise for DRC Ebola outbreak: health official

GENEVA (Xinhua) -- China is closely watching the outbreak of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and stands ready to offer health professionals and experts if asked, a leading Chinese health official said Sunday.

Ma Xiaowei, head of China’s National Health Commission, is leading the Chinese delegation to the World Health Assembly (WHA) that is to kick off in Geneva Monday. At a press conference on Sunday, he said “We are very much concerned about the development of the outbreak of Ebola in the DRC.”

The DRC’s latest confirmation on Saturday increased the number of people affected by Ebola in the country from 17 to 21.

“As you all know in 2014 when the Ebola outbreak occurred in West Africa, the Chinese government and the people made a quick response and... we sent experts and public health professional helping the West African countries to deal with the Ebola outbreak,” said Ma.

He said that in the same spirit China is watching the current Ebola outbreak in the DRC and “where necessary on request” the government and people will send experts or professionals to offer their help.

The WHO’s Emergency Committee of 11 experts said in a statement on Friday that the rapid and comprehensive response had eased the risk from the DRC Ebola outbreak.

“Interventions underway provide strong reason to believe that the outbreak can be brought under control,” the committee said in a statement on Friday.

The WHO Emergency Committee said in its statement, “Global solidarity among the scientific community is critical and international data should be shared freely and regularly.”

Ma said that China is “watching very closely the academic exchanges in the world on the Ebola outbreak and we are ready to share our experience during the 2014 outbreak.” He said that China will take part in discussions that take place at the WHA on the DRC outbreak.

Ebola is a highly infectious disease that spreads through contact with even a small amount of bodily fluid of an infected person. Its early flu-like symptoms are not always easy to detect.

Dr. Peter Salama, who leads the Health Emergencies Program at WHO, told journalists Friday that the Ebola West Africa outbreak two years ago cost the international community between three and four billion U.S. dollars.

The Ebola epidemic hit Africa between late 2013 and 2016, causing more than 11,000 deaths in nearly 30,000 cases, according to UN statistics.

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South Sudan partners with WHO to prevent Ebola outbreak

JUBA South Sudan (Xinhua) -- The UN World Health Organization (WHO) and South Sudan said they had put in place measures to prevent an Ebola outbreak that has been reported in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Riek Gai Kok, South Sudan’s minister of health, told journalists late Thursday in Juba that his ministry in collaboration with partners like WHO has strengthened vigilance to shield the world’s youngest republic from an Ebola outbreak.

“An Ebola outbreak has been declared in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the ministry of health is on high alert in collaboration with WHO and partners, and have set up prevention and preparedness measures that were already in place,” said Gai.

The minister said the ministry of health is updating the Ebola contingency plan to strengthen preparedness in case of spread of the virus in South Sudan.

He revealed that the outbreak task force in the states that border DRC that include Tombura, Yambio, Maridi and Yei has been activated to coordinate preparedness and risks monitoring activities.

“A multi-sectorial task force that include various key ministries has been set up. A health team has been deployed at Juba International Airport to screen all incoming visitors. An isolation facility is being set up at Juba Teaching Hospital,” Gai said.

He urged the public to be vigilant and report any suspected cases to health workers for immediate attention.

“Surveillance officers at entry points has been alerted and supported to enhance surveillance and early detection cases. In addition, social mobilization and risk communication messages and material are been prepared to enhance public awareness and sensitize the communities to report rumors and suspected cases,” he added.

Evans Liyosi, WHO South Sudan representative, said the Ebola virus may not cross over into countries neighboring DRC if they put strong deterrent measures in place.

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Mozambique activates technical groups to deal with possible Ebola cases

MAPUTO Mozambique (Xinhua) -- The Ministry of Health of Mozambique announced on Friday that it has activated its technical committee and provincial emergency centers to get prepared for dealing with any Ebola cases that may reappear in the country.

This strategic move follows the outbreak of Ebola on April 4 in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

“We have reactivated the technical groups not only at the level of the ministry but also at the provincial level which consists of health experts and partners to guarantee that all the necessary conditions are created,” said Lidia Chongo, spokesperson for Health Ministry in a press conference. 

“We are also analyzing the needs in terms of medication to address cases of Ebola if they are ever reported in the country,” added Chongo. 

According to the spokesperson, prevention methods will be applied when Ebola outbreak was first reported, namely at the border posts by scanning passengers particular those from the international flights and activate the dissemination of messages for precautions against Ebola.

“Washing hands can be taken as a simple practice and it is important to prevent not only against Ebola but also other diseases, so we recommend this, special care is advised when dealing with animals,” said the spokesperson.

Mozambique has been putting in place the prevention methods since 2014 when the first case of the disease was registered and it concentrated efforts in the provinces of Niassa and Cabo Delgado where it borders with Malawi and Zimbabwe.

           

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