WHO chief warns Ebola outbreak in DRC has not yet stabilized, at least 75 dead
The World Health Organization’s chief called for caution on Wednesday since the outbreak of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo is stabilizing due to the dangers health officials face in identifying new cases new rebel-controlled areas, according to Reuters.
WHO Chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus echoed similar warnings previously stated by the International Federation of Red Cross and International Rescue Committee by explaining if there was just one case “hidden in the red zone or an inaccessible area, it’s dangerous.”
“It can just spark a fire, just one case,” Tedros told Reuters.
“There is a decline (in new cases)… but still, considering the accessibility and red zones, we cannot say that the outbreak is stabilizing,” he said during a press conference on Wednesday.
He also noted the next seven to ten days would be critical for controlling the outbreak to avoid a repeat of the terrible outbreak in West Africa between 2013-2016, which killed more than 11,000 people.
The latest outbreak in DRC was declared on Aug. 1 but has already seen 112 confirmed and probable cases in the North Kivu and Ituri provinces in eastern Congo.
WHO said 83 of those cases are confirmed and 28 are probable, which is already double the numbers of a previous outbreak in the western half of the DRC during June 2018.
There have also been 75 deaths, according to the overnight data from Congo’s health ministry.
Some areas of the latest outbreak’s epicenter in Mangina are off-limits due to security workers since there are active rebel groups who could target the health workers.
“Without a swift, concerted and efficient response, this outbreak has the potential to be the worst ever seen,” The International Red Cross said in a statement.
The current outbreak has been aided with several experimental techniques, including a new vaccine which proved to be effective during this year’s earlier outbreak, along with several treatments that are being used for the first time.
Tedros said more than 4,500 health workers and contacts of Ebola cases have been vaccinated so far and at least 17 patients have received new treatments, with two fully recovered.
“Now we have vaccines and we have therapeutics and no one should really die of Ebola. But for this to happen first of all we need to identify cases as early as possible,” he said.
WHO has also asked a number of neighboring countries, local religious leaders and chiefs to help negotiate access to the “red zones” controlled by the rebel groups to help eradicate the current outbreak.
UNICEF also announced this week it would be increasing its efforts to help more than 82,000 children who are preparing to begin a new school year in the affected areas by increasing education, health, water, sanitation, and hygiene programs to help the schools.
The government made the decision to move ahead with the start of the school year in the North Kivu and Ituri provinces, where nearly 250 schools are listed as being inside the Ebola-affected health zones.
“Education is a right for every child and essential for children to develop to their full potential. Especially in times of crisis such as an Ebola outbreak, schools are vital for children to find stability, learn prevention measures and receive psychosocial support,” said Dr. Gianfranco Rotigliano, UNICEF Representative in the DRC following his visit to Mangina, the epicenter of the Ebola-epidemic. “Every effort must go into ensuring a smooth and safe start to the new school year.”
UNICEF would train principals and teachers on Ebola prevention and protection while also working to teach the students about proper hygiene practices to avoid spreading the virus.
They will train more than 1,750 teachers in the affected zones while also distributing 2 laser thermometers to each school to monitor the children’s health, and install 1,500 hand-washing units to promote good hygiene.
–WN.com, Maureen Foody
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