More than 550 people in Democratic Republic of Congo are now being monitored by the country’s Ministry of Health as the latest Ebola virus outbreak threatens to become a crisis.
The World Health Organization (WHO) plans an emergency meeting Friday to assess the situation, following news of a confirmed case in Mbandaka, a city of 1.2 million people on the Congo River. It’s to the north of Bikoro, where all of the previous suspected or confirmed cases were located. Of those cases – there are more than 40 – 23 people have died.
The hundreds now under surveillance, who may be eligible for vaccinations, are people who have been in contact with other victims, directly or indirectly. Special Ebola treatment centers also are being established in Mbandaka and Bikoro, which will have capacity to treat 20 patients each.
“This is a concerning development, but we now have better tools than ever before to combat Ebola,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Director-General of WHO. “WHO and our partners are taking decisive action to stop further spread of the virus.”
The meeting of the Emergency Committee will decide whether to declare an official public health emergency, which would trigger more international involvement and free up more resources to deal with the outbreak.
Apart from WHO and other UN agencies, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), and other humanitarian organizations have teams on the ground working to contain the outbreak.
This is the ninth outbreak, since the discovery of the Ebola virus in the country in 1976.The virus – fatal in about 50 percent of cases – is endemic to the DR Congo.
Image: UC RUSAL file