World Health Organization chief says more anxious after visit to Ebola-hit DR Congo

Laverne Higgins
August 17, 2018

According to WHO and the DRC's Ministry of Health, the number of cases so far stands at 57 confirmed or suspected cases, with 41 deaths, already surpassing the previous Ebola outbreak in the country's Equateur Province, with 53 cases and 29 deaths.

The area surrounding Beni and Mangina-the epicentre of the outbreak-is more or less surrounded by armed groups.

"After the visit, I am actually more anxious", Tedros said at a news conference Tuesday.

Congolese and World Health Organization officials wear protective suits as they prepare equipment before the launch of vaccination campaign against the deadly Ebola virus near Mangina village, near Beni in North Kivu province, DRC, Aug. 8, 2018.

DRC health authorities said today that for the first time since the outbreak was announced, one fatality was recorded outside of North Kivu - in the neighbouring province of Ituri.

In all, there have been 66 cases to date, including 39 confirmed and 27 probable, the health ministry said on Tuesday evening, an increase of nine confirmed cases since Monday. The ICRC-working with the International Federation of the Red Cross and DRC Red Cross-is fighting to stop the spread of the virus before it penetrates areas where armed groups are present.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters in Geneva he feared conditions on the ground in the eastern province had created "a conducive environment for the transmission of Ebola".

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Segoni added that MSF faced difficulties in accessing the Ebola-hit regions due to the volatile security situation and military operations in the area.

Ebola is a highly infectious disease that causes a fever and often leads to massive internal bleeding and death.

Use of the experimental treatment in the field comes on the heels of deployment of an unlicensed vaccine in the earlier Ebola outbreak in the DRC this year. The organization has not yet declared the crisis a public health emergency of worldwide concern - a designation that signals a high risk of global spread. More than 200 health workers have been vaccinated, along with 20 residents in the Beni region, he said.

But Tedros warned that lack of access could impact the efficiency of the current vaccine campaign, which is based on so-called ring vaccination aimed at immunising every person who has been in contact with the sick, and all of their contacts.

Vaccinations began Wednesday in the current outbreak, which was declared on august 1 and has killed 11 people in the densely populated region.

Health care workers may be forced to flee as well, she said.

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