Workers of the World Health Organization decontaminate the house of a pastor who was just positive for Ebola in Benija, on June 13, 2019.
Sally Hayden SOPA Images LightRocket | Getty Images
The World Health Organization confirmed the third case of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Friday, while health officials are racing to vaccinate residents and combat a potential epidemic.
Earlier this week, confirmed by the global health agency that the woman died of the disease in Butembu, a city in North Kivu province and the epicenter of a previous Ebola epidemic that was declared over in June. The WHO has since confirmed two more cases, including another person who died, Dr. said on Friday. Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO Emergency Health Program.
The number of people who could have been exposed to the virus rose from over 70 on Monday to 182 as of Friday, Ryan said. He added that all but three people had been contacted and that more than half had been previously vaccinated against Ebola during previous outbreaks.
“We see some benefits of previous vaccinations, but obviously we need to consider the time period that the vaccine protects,” he said.
He added that new shipments of the vaccine arrived in Butembo this week. Ultra-cold chain storage equipment is being set up in Butemba and staff are being trained, Ryan said.
The DRC has other therapeutic products, including monoclonal anti-Ebola treatments, in the capital, Kinshasa, and another city, Mbandaki, Ryan said, adding that they will be flown to North Kivu over the weekend. The DRC has enough vaccine for 16,000 people in the country, Ryan said, but it is unclear how many have arrived in Butembo.
The WHO is “still unclear about the original community source” of the first Ebola case, Ryan said, adding that the DRC’s National Institute for Biomedical Research sequenced virus samples at its main laboratory in Kinshasa to determine if the new cases were related to the latest outbreak. Butemba. Ryan said results are expected over the weekend.
The Ebola outbreak, which was announced in June, lasted for almost two years. It was the second largest in the world, and by completion there were 3,481 total cases and 2,299 deaths, according to the WHO.
The WHO noted that efforts to respond to the outbreak of the epidemic in North Kivu province have been particularly difficult due to the ongoing violent conflict in the area, which involves over 100 different armed groups. according to Human Rights Watch.
Ryan said the WHO is working with NGOs, the DRC government and other United Nations agencies, such as UNICEF, to respond to new Ebola cases.
Unlike highly contagious coronavirus, which can be spread by people who have no symptoms, Ebola is thought to spread mostly to people who are already visibly ill. The virus is spread by direct contact with the blood or body fluids of people who are ill or have died of the disease, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The average mortality rate from Ebola is 50%, although it may differ from outbreaks, according to the WHO.
“Obviously two cases, and now the third, may not seem like many, many cases in light of what we see globally with Covid, but we were on alert waiting for Ebola to return to eastern Congo and do everything in our power to support the government in response “Ryan said.