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XINHUA NEWS SERVICE REPORTS FROM THE AFRICAN CONTINENT

 

Some facts and figures from WHO about current Ebola
Outbreak across the Democratic Republic of the Congo

 

GENEVA (Xinhua) -- World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Wednesday declared the Ebola virus disease outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.

Saying that everything possible is need to be done now, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock also said earlier this week that world must try the best to avoid the DRC outbreak of Ebola reaching the scale of the outbreak in West Africa five years ago, when more than 10,000 lives were lost before a multi-billion-dollar response brought the cases down to zero.

The following are some facts and figures about the current outbreak and about the virus:

On August 1 of 2018, the Ministry of Health of the DRC declared a new outbreak of Ebola virus disease in North Kivu province.

As of July 16 of 2019, there had been 2,522 confirmed or probable cases, including 136 health workers affected, and the confirmed or probable deaths totaled 1,698 in the country.

The latest WHO risk assessment remains that the risk of spread in DRC and the region is "very high", but the risk of spread outside the region is low.

The intensity of the epidemiological situation is fluctuating, with about 80 new cases reported weekly.

There is continued shifting of hotspots and associated risks.

There is continued seeding to new or previously cleared areas but thus far without sustained local transmission.

For the DRC, factors affecting the outbreak of the Ebola include population movement in highly densely populated areas, weak infection and prevention control practices in many health facilities, complex political environment, continued reluctance in the community and the ongoing unstable security situation.

Ebola virus disease (formerly known as Ebola haemorrhagic fever) is a rare but severe, often fatal illness.

Death rates have varied from 25 percent to 90 percent in past outbreaks.

The Ebola virus was first identified in 1976 when 2 simultaneous outbreaks occurred, one in Yambuku, a village not far from the Ebola River in the DRC and the other in a remote area of Sudan.

The origin of the virus is unknown, but current evidence suggests that fruit bats (Pteropodidae) may be a host.

People become infected with Ebola either through contact with infected animals (usually following butchering, cooking or eating) or through contact with the bodily fluids of infected humans.

During an outbreak, those at higher risk of infection are: health workers; family members or others in close contact with infected people; mourners who have direct contact with bodies during burial rituals.
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UPDATES:

African Union to deploy more healthcare experts to tackle Ebola crisis

ADDIS ABABA Ethiopia (Xinhua) -- The African Union (AU) on Saturday said it will deploy more healthcare experts to respond to the Ebola virus outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The virus has caused 1,621 deaths in the DRC as of July 17 in an outbreak that is the second largest in the history of Ebola since it was discovered in 1976.

"The AU will reactivate the African Voluntary Health Corps (AVoHC) and deploy them not just in the DRC but also in other countries within the region," an AU statement quoted John Nkengasong, Director of the AU’s Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), as saying on Saturday.

According to the 55-member pan-African bloc, the decision to increase the number of volunteers is in response to the declaration by the World Health Organization (WHO), categorizing the outbreak as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC).

"This is a declaration that is issued when an event is extraordinary, serious and has a potential to cross beyond the country where it is and have a regional or international effect from the public health perspective.

"It is an important declaration because it changes the way the Africa CDC will support the Democratic Republic of Congo to respond to this outbreak," said Nkengasong.

Africa CDC, which has been supporting response efforts in the DRC since August 2018, presently operates with 41 experts who were deployed in the field, some of whom are said to be AVoHC members.

The AU, which had previously deployed the AVoHC in West Africa to respond to the outbreak back in 2014 to 2015, said that the AVoHC "will also be very useful in the current outbreak."

The AU, noting that insecurity and attacks on health centers and health providers as a major challenge to response efforts in the affected provinces, also revealed that it will "engage with the United Nations security system to improve security for deployed experts and facilities so that response efforts can continue without interruptions."

"We will be working with the Government of the DRC very closely to better coordinate our efforts with other partners like the WHO," Nkengasong said.

Other plans to strengthen response include the procurement and provision of additional equipment and supplies, strengthening cross-border surveillance and laboratory systems, and a new approach to risk communication and awareness-raising at the community level, it was noted.

The African Voluntary Health Corps is a team of 800 epidemiologists, anthropologists, as well as communication, laboratory and logistics experts, from different African countries who are on standby for emergency deployment.

According to the AU, majority of the AVoHC members have been "trained and are ready to be deployed anywhere within the continent."

The Africa CDC, as part of its interventions in the DRC Ebola epidemic, has deployed some 41 experts who are in the theatre of response, and trained over 800 local health care workers and community volunteers.

The Africa CDC response interventions also include support to the government of the DRC with 3,000 laboratory cartridges for use in detecting Ebola, establishing six laboratories fully supported and run by Africa CDC staff members, the training of some 469 healthcare workers, traditional healers and teachers in infection prevention and control, it was noted.
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African Union calls for international action to address
Ebola outbreak in Democratic Republic of the Congo

ADDIS ABABA Ethiopia (Xinhua) -- The African Union (AU) on Friday called for immediate international action on the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo), which has lingered for almost one year with a high number of casualties.

Speaking to a press conference at the AU Headquarters in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa, John Nkengasong, Director of the Africa CDC, said 2,438 cases have been confirmed and 1,621 deaths registered as of July 17 this year in the country.

The official however emphasized that being infected with Ebola is a not a death sentence.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), simple treatment interventions at the early stage can significantly improve chances of survival.

Meanwhile, an experimental Ebola vaccine known as rVSV-ZEBOV has also proved highly protective against the deadly virus.

The vaccine is also now being used in response to the current outbreak in DR Congo.

The latest round of outbreak has been limited mainly to North Kivu and Ituri provinces; and one case was recently reported in Goma, a city of about 2 million people and about 2 km from the nearest city in Rwanda.

He stated that 97 contacts of the victim have been identified and 77 of them vaccinated.

On July 17, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared Ebola in the DR Congo as a public health emergency of international concern, the same day when 10 new cases were confirmed in Beni, Butembo, Mandima, Vuhovi, and Mutwanga health zones.

"This means the outbreak is serious, unusual or unexpected, carries implications for public health beyond the affected state’s national border; and may require immediate international action," Nkengasong said.

He further stated that the AU, through the Africa CDC, has been supporting the response and is renewing its commitment to supporting the governments of the DR Congo and other neighboring countries.

With regard to new response to the outbreak, more African voluntary health corps members will be deployed in the DR Congo by the AU, he said, adding the Africa CDC will work with the AU Peace and Security Council and the UN security system to improve security in the field for healthcare.

The Director also noted that Africa CDC would strengthen cross-border surveillance and laboratory systems.

The Ebola virus is transmitted through direct contact with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected people, and with surfaces and materials contaminated with these fluids.

Hand hygiene is an effective way to prevent the spread of the Ebola virus.
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FURTHER READING:

Joint press release between Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention and World Health
Organization on the situation of Ebola virus disease outbreak in Democratic Republic Of Congo -
ONE OF TWO

Joint press release between Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention and World Health
Organization on the situation of Ebola virus disease outbreak in Democratic Republic Of Congo -
TWO OF TWO

           

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