Published: Fri, May 18, 2018
Medicine | By Tracy Klein

DRC's Ebola outbreak reports 1st confirmed urban case

DRC's Ebola outbreak reports 1st confirmed urban case

One new case of Ebola virus disease (EVD) has been confirmed in Wangata, one of the three health zones of Mbandaka, a city of almost 1.2 million people in Equateur Province in northwestern Democratic Republic of the Congo.

"”The arrival of Ebola in an urban area is very concerning and WHO and partners are working together to rapidly scale up the search for all contacts of the confirmed case in the Mbandaka area" said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.

It went on to kill more than 11,300 people, in the deadliest ever Ebola epidemic.

In a May 14 situation report, the WHO had said two brothers from the Wangata health zone who got sick after attending a funeral in Bikoro, the outbreak hot spot, had tested positive for the virus on rapid tests.

Those exposed to the suspected Ebola cases will for the first time in Congo receive Ebola vaccinations, the health minister said. The CDC says travelers to the Bikoro area could be infected if they come into contact with an infected person's blood or body fluids.

IFRC has released more than 216,000 Swiss francs from its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund to bring supplies and personnel to the affected area and is preparing to launch an global emergency appeal to increase its support to the DRC Red Cross.

The new case is in Mbandaka, a city of about 1.2 million residents. And the capital of the Central African Republic, Bangui, where over 730,000 people live, is not too far away. "This requires a more urgent and comprehensive response, and a need for increased US leadership and involvement".

The first urban case significantly escalates the risk of an epidemic, and has prompted the UN World Health Organization to convene an emergency committee on Friday to consider the danger of the disease spreading to other countries.

As of yet, the WHO Contingency Fund for Emergencies, The Wellcome Trust, the United Kingdom, the UN, and Gavi have contributed $8 million to contain the outbreak, which WHO estimates will cost at least $26 million to quell over three months.

DR Congo faces Ebola outbreak
DR Congo faces Ebola outbreak

Jeremy Farrar, MD, PhD, director of Wellcome Trust, today in a statement on Twitter called the case confirmation in Mbandaka an extremely concerning development.

Last week, President Donald Trump proposed cutting the $252 million in Ebola response funds for US agencies.

"DRC Red Cross has responded to all past eight Ebola outbreaks in the country and has a strong, in-country network of experts", said Grégoire Mateso, President of the DRC Red Cross.

The 4,000 doses will be sent to the remote northwest where two confirmed Ebola cases, 20 probable ones and 20 suspected ones have been reported, spokeswoman Jessica Ilunga said. In 23 cases, patients have died, said Kalenga, the country's health minister.

This is a developing story.

The vaccine must be kept in an environment between minus 76 and minus 112 degrees Fahrenheit, which is hard to do in a region where there is no electricity, Peter Salama, the World Health Organization deputy director general of emergency preparedness and response, tells Jula.

There is no licensed drug to treat or prevent Ebola, although an experimental vaccine arrived in the DRC on Wednesday and has been cleared for use by the Kinshasa government.

Congo's latest Ebola outbreak had been detected in more isolated areas, giving authorities a better chance of ring-fencing the virus.

In addition to the financing allocated specifically for disease surveillance, further funds could also be activated using the Contingent Emergency Response Component (CERC) of the World Bank's overall health system investments.

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