ANTI-EBOLA PUSH

The WHO takes into ac­count po­ten­tially in­fected con­tacts, putting costs at $56m

The East African - - OUTLOOK - By TOM MILES Reuters Ad­di­tional re­port­ing by Xinhua

WHO takes on the deadly virus in the DR Congo.

The World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion as­sumes 100-300 cases of Ebola in the Demo­cratic Repub­lic of Congo be­tween May and July, un­der a re­vised re­sponse plan to the out­break that it pub­lished on Tues­day.

An ear­lier ver­sion of the plan, based on in­for­ma­tion to May 15, had as­sumed 80-100 cases. The WHO says the new fig­ure is not a pre­dic­tion but part of its mod­el­ling is to plan and bud­get for a re­sponse.

Congo’s Health Min­istry said late on Mon­day there had been 54 cases of Ebola in the out­break — 35 con­firmed, 13 prob­a­ble and six sus­pected — and 25 deaths. There have been no deaths or new con­firmed cases in the past two days.

The deadly virus spreads eas­ily through bod­ily flu­ids and eight pre­vi­ous out­breaks in Congo have claimed be­tween one and 256 lives. A West African out­break that be­gan in late 2013 killed 11,300 be­fore be­ing brought un­der con­trol in 2016.

The WHO’S plan for Congo as­sumes each ru­ral Ebola case would have 10 po­ten­tially in­fected con­tacts and each ur­ban case would have 30. As of May 26, there were 906 con­tacts be­ing fol­lowed, WHO spokesman Tarik Jasare­vic said.

Health work­ers hope to vac­ci­nate ev­ery con­tact to ef­fec­tively ringfence each Ebola pa­tient and pre­vent fur­ther spread.

The WHO es­ti­mates 1,000 peo­ple move each day through ma­jor points of en­try con­nected to Bikoro health zone, the re­mote area of Equa­teur Prov­ince where the out­break was first de­clared. Around 50 per day go by boat from Bikoro to neigh­bour­ing Repub­lic of Congo.

Since the plan was writ­ten, the dis­ease has spread to the pro­vin­cial cap­i­tal Mban­daka, with an es­ti­mated pop­u­la­tion of 1.5 mil­lion peo­ple, and WHO has more than dou­bled its re­sponse bud­get, to $56 mil­lion from an ini­tial $26 mil­lion.

The plan also sets out tar­gets for the dis­ease re­sponse, in­clud­ing that 100 per cent of new cases should come from known con­tacts and none of the cases should be health care work­ers. Zero con­tacts should be lost, and all peo­ple who die from sus­pected or prob­a­ble Ebola should be buried in a safe way, to pre­vent the in­fec­tion spread­ing. The case fa­tal­ity ra­tio for all con­firmed cases ad­mit­ted into Ebola treat­ment cen­tres should be less than 50 per cent, it said.

Aware­ness drive

Mean­while, more aware­ness is be­ing urged among the pop­u­la­tion of the DRC amid the ris­ing num­ber of sus­pected and con­firmed cases of Ebola in the north­west of the coun­try.

Ef­forts to con­tain the spread of the deadly virus have been ham­pered by poor road con­di­tions and the lack of other lo­gis­ti­cal means.

The non-co-oper­a­tion of some members of the com­mu­nity with the med­i­cal pro­fes­sion­als also helped prop­a­gate the virus, ob­servers said.

Last Wed­nes­day, three pa­tients were whisked from an iso­la­tion site to re­turn to their fam­i­lies. Two were found dead later.

“We need to tell more to peo­ple to un­der­stand how the Ebola virus is con­ta­gious,” Min­is­ter of Health Oly Ilunga said.

Many ex­perts and health ob­servers say the lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional re­sponse to the out­break in north­west­ern DRC has been swift.

The WHO has shipped over 4,000 doses of vac­cine to stop the spread of the virus, in col­lab­o­ra­tion with in­ter­na­tional part­ners, in­clud­ing Doc­tors With­out Bor­ders, which has set up treat­ment fa­cil­i­ties.

On the ground in the af­fected ar­eas, in Equa­teur Prov­ince, mis­trust and mis­in­for­ma­tion are the biggest risks for the spread of the epi­demic, ob­servers say. They cite such fac­tors as the way care is given to the sick; religion; su­per­sti­tion; and fu­ner­ary rites that help spread the virus.

For now, med­i­cal teams are con­tin­u­ing their field work, re­mind­ing the pub­lic that vac­ci­na­tion is ef­fec­tive only if other hy­giene mea­sures, mon­i­tor­ing, and fol­low-up pro­ce­dures are well taken.

Pic­ture: AFP

Health work­ers wear pro­tec­tive gear as they pre­pare to at­tend to sus­pected Ebola pa­tients at Bikoro Hos­pi­tal — the epi­cen­tre of the lat­est Ebola out­break in the Demo­cratic Repub­lic of Congo

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