Experts Race against Clock to Quell Ebola Outbreak in DRC

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In short
The first Ebola treatment centre has been established in the Likati General Hospital. Protective gear has been dispatched to health workers and a mobile lab is being constructed and then deployed to the area. Immediate repairs to air strips and telecommunications are also being carried out.

A race against the clock has begun to contain an outbreak of Ebola in a remote northern area of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) has said.

Twenty cases of Ebola have been reported in the remote northern Likati health district of DRC located 1400 kilometers from Kinshasa. Two cases have been confirmed by laboratory tests and three people have died so far, according to the World Health Organisation.

Fear of a possible outbreak of Ebola in DRC was raised on May 9, when health authorities in DRC noticed a cluster of unexplained illnesses and deaths, all with bleeding symptoms. '

Technical experts from WHO, the Congolese Government and the medical aid organization, Alima, were deployed to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as part of a coordinated response to a new outbreak of the deadly virus.

The first search teams, led by the DRC's Ministry of Health, flew into Likati on Wednesday. Their immediate priority is to follow the 400 plus contacts of the suspected Ebola cases.

Dr Peter Salama, the Executive Director of WHO's Health Emergencies Programme says the focus now is on surveillance, getting the best information on the suspected cases, diagnosing people who have come in contact with an infected person, case management, isolating those who are infected to prevent the spread of the disease and engaging with the community.

The first six months of the operation are expected to cost USD 10 million (36 billion Shillings).

The efforts are however slowed down by the area's poor infrastructure. The Likati area has only 20 kilometers of paved roads and virtually no functional telecommunications. It is also an area that has been subject to insecurity and displacement by activities of the Lord's Resistance Army-LRA.

Dr Salama notes that the logistic and practical challenges associated with the response to the outbreak in a very remote and insecure part of the country should not be underestimated.
 
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Meanwhile, the first Ebola treatment centre has been established in the Likati General Hospital. Protective gear has been dispatched to health workers and a mobile lab is being constructed and then deployed to the area. Immediate repairs to air strips and telecommunications are also being carried out.

This is the eighth outbreak in the DRC since 1976. The most recent was in 2014, around the time more than 11,000 people died and some 28,000 cases were reported in the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, mainly in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

WHO has determined overall that the risk assessment for this event is "high" at the national level, medium at the regional level and low at the global level.

 

About the author

Sylvia Nankya
Sylvia is an Editor and Media Trainer with Uganda Radio Network. She has been a URN staff member since 2013. Sylvia has previously worked as a reporter and news anchor with Radio One (2001-2009) and with Vision Group (2009-2011). Six of her active years in Journalism were spent covering the Parliament of Uganda.

Over the past few years, Sylvia has worked to promote the positive development of societies recovering from conflict through training journalists on choices of stories, how they report issues and use of appropriate language in covering conflict and post-conflict situations.

She is an Alumni of RNTC- Holland, Les Aspin Centre for Government at Marquette University-WI, USA and a Community Solutions Fellow.