Ebola spread­ing in DRC’s North Kivu

Around 255 fa­tal­i­ties so far in 10th and most se­ri­ous out­break since the virus was dis­cov­ered in 1976

Cape Times - - PAGE 2 -

THE Ebola epi­demic con­tin­ues to spread through the Demo­cratic Re­pub­lic of Congo’s (DRC’s) North Kivu prov­ince.

The new­est ar­eas to be af­fected in­clude the city of Butembo and a num­ber of iso­lated ar­eas that are hard to reach.

So far, 440 peo­ple have been in­fected with the virus, 255 of whom have died.

Teams from in­ter­na­tional med­i­cal or­gan­i­sa­tion Doc­tors With­out Bor­ders (MSF) con­tinue to strengthen their ef­forts to help bring the epi­demic un­der con­trol.

This is DRC’s tenth and most se­ri­ous epi­demic of Ebola since the virus was dis­cov­ered in 1976 near the Ebola River in what was then called Zaire.

Forty years later, de­spite a mas­sive and co-or­di­nated mo­bil­i­sa­tion by the World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion (WHO), the Con­golese Min­istry of Health and or­gan­i­sa­tions such as MSF, the deadly virus is still spread­ing.

The new­est ur­ban lo­ca­tions to be af­fected are the city of Butembo, as well as Kalenguta, 25km to its north, and Katwa, 30km to its east.

These places have all seen an in­crease in con­firmed cases of Ebola as well as some re­sis­tance from the com­mu­nity.

For now, the num­ber of cases in Butembo’s city cen­tre is low, but cases are ris­ing quickly in its eastern sub­urbs and out­ly­ing iso­lated dis­tricts.

“We are very con­cerned by the epi­demi­o­log­i­cal sit­u­a­tion in the Butembo area,” says John John­son, MSF project co-or­di­na­tor in Butembo.

“We now know that this out­break will last and that we must in­crease our ef­forts to get it un­der con­trol.

“With the agree­ment of the au­thor­i­ties, we have made a strate­gic de­ci­sion to roll out our ac­tiv­i­ties close to the af­fected pop­u­la­tions and to or­gan­ise train­ing of key peo­ple in the com­mu­nity so that we can reach pa­tients and their rel­a­tives.”

MSF’s ef­forts to reach sus­pects in iso­lated ar­eas have had ini­tial suc­cess.

New cases are be­ing re­ported from these ar­eas and pa­tients are be­ing brought to Butembo, where MSF man­ages an Ebola treat­ment cen­tre in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Min­istry of Health. The num­ber of beds in the Butembo cen­tre has re­cently been in­creased to 64.

Mean­while, MSF has re­in­forced its ac­tiv­i­ties to de­con­tam­i­nate health cen­tres and vac­ci­nate front line health work­ers to help con­tain the epi­demic.

So far, 2 000 front line work­ers have re­ceived the Ebola vac­cine.

In Mang­ina, where the epi­demic started, no new cases have been re­ported for sev­eral weeks.

“We should be able to end our ac­tiv­i­ties in the treat­ment cen­tre shortly,” says Ax­elle Ron­sse, the co-or­di­na­tor of MSF’s Ebola re­sponse. In Beni, the num­ber of cases per week re­mains sta­ble.

How­ever, new cases are still be­ing con­firmed daily.

“To fight this, we have stepped up our med­i­cal and health op­er­a­tions by open­ing a 48-bed tran­sit cen­tre that re­mains busy,” said Ron­sse.

“We also, for ex­am­ple, per­form de­con­tam­i­na­tions in health cen­tres where a con­firmed pa­tient has been. But our ac­tions aren’t lim­ited to re­ac­tive re­sponses: we have in­creased our train­ing of health pro­fes­sion­als and rais­ing aware­ness among com­mu­ni­ties of hy­giene prac­tices.

“Four months after the start of the epi­demic, we re­main mo­bilised and vig­i­lant in the face of new de­vel­op­ments.”

To sup­port MSF’s work, SMS “JOIN” to 41486 to do­nate R15 per month. Visit www.msf.org.za/do­nate

JOHN WES­SELS

HEALTH work­ers em­brace while putting on their pro­tec­tive equip­ment be­fore head­ing to work at an MSF-sup­ported Ebola treat­ment cen­tre. |

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