Congo of­fi­cials alarmed af­ter Ebola dis­cov­ered in large port city.

WHO lead­ers work­ing to avoid sever­ity of 2013 case

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY TOM HOW­ELL JR.

Of­fi­cials have dis­cov­ered a case of the deadly Ebola virus in a port city of 1 mil­lion peo­ple in the Demo­cratic Repub­lic of Congo, spark­ing fears Thurs­day the lat­est out­break has bro­ken out of the re­mote ru­ral ar­eas where it started and could spi­ral out of con­trol.

The World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion said it was alarmed by the spread of the dis­ease from ter­ri­tory around Bikoro, a re­mote area that’s dif­fi­cult to reach, to the ur­ban cen­ter of Mban­daka —roughly 80 miles away. It dis­patched 30 ex­perts to the city to as­sist lo­cal of­fi­cials in track­ing cases and try­ing to pre­vent trans­mis­sion.

“This is a ma­jor, ma­jor game-changer in the out­break,” Dr. Peter Salama, the WHO’s deputy di­rec­tor-gen­eral of emer­gency pre­pared­ness and re­sponse, warned.“... We have ur­ban Ebola, which is a very dif­fer­ent an­i­mal from ru­ral Ebola. The po­ten­tial for an ex­plo­sive in­crease in cases is now there.”

Of­fi­cials’ fears are based on re­cent mem­ory.

The West African out­break that killed more than 11,000 peo­ple from 2013 to 2016 was so se­vere be­cause it swept through ma­jor cities in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

The dis­ease started out in ru­ral Guinea, but its jump to ur­ban ar­eas was fol­lowed by a “cas­cade of new cases,” ac­cord­ing to David Wohl, a pro­fes­sor at the In­sti­tute of Global Health and In­fec­tious Dis­eases within the Univer­sity of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

“Hope­fully, in the com­ing days and weeks, his­tory will not re­peat it­self,” he said. “But we will see.”

Amesh Adalja, a se­nior scholar at the Johns Hop­kins Cen­ter for Health Se­cu­rity, said the risk is height­ened in cities for two rea­sons —con­ta­gious per­sons will have far more hu­man con­tacts, al­low­ing the dis­ease to spread, and it is more dif­fi­cult to iden­tify and iso­late in­fected per­sons in crowded ar­eas.

Mban­daka is lo­cated at the con­flu­ence of the Congo and Ruki rivers, rais­ing fears that Ebola will spread fur­ther along trade routes.

“One can imag­ine that the spread of Ebola in the DRC from the fairly re­mote area in which it was first de­tected to this larger city may have been fa­cil­i­tated by the river. The Congo River runs right past both,” Dr. Wohl said.

Ebola is a se­ri­ous ill­ness that is transmitted to peo­ple from wild an­i­mals and spreads from hu­man to hu­man through the bod­ily flu­ids of peo­ple who ex­hibit symp­toms. About half of those who con­tract Ebola die from it. This is the ninth Ebola out­break recorded in the Congo since 1976, when the dis­ease was dis­cov­ered there.

So far, 44 con­firmed or sus­pected cases have been re­ported in the lat­est out­break — only three have been ver­i­fied in a lab — and more than 20 peo­ple have died.

The out­break comes as the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion has proposed claw­ing back about $250 mil­lion in left­over Ebola money from a multi-bil­lion-dol­lar pack­age that Congress ap­proved dur­ing the height of the West African out­break in 2015. The re­quest is part of a sweep­ing “rescis­sion” pack­age that would cut $15 bil­lion in over­all spend­ing.

Democrats say it would be fool­ish to swipe Ebola dol­lars in light of the most re­cent out­break.

“Cut­ting these vi­tal funds — es­pe­cially with a new Ebola out­break on the hori­zon — is short­sighted and puts Amer­i­can lives in dan­ger,” said Rep. Ami Bera, Cal­i­for­nia Demo­crat and mem­ber of the House Foreign Af­fairs Com­mit­tee.

WHO Di­rec­tor-Gen­eral Te­dros Ad­hanom Ghe­breye­sus said while the ex­pand­ing Congo out­break is con­cern­ing, “we now have bet­ter tools than ever be­fore to com­bat Ebola.”

About 4,300 doses of a trial Ebola vac­cine arrived in the cap­i­tal city of Kinshasa on Wed­nes­day.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Peo­ple sus­pected of hav­ing the Ebola virus wait at a treat­ment cen­ter in Bikoro, Demo­cratic Repub­lic of Congo. Congo’s lat­est Ebola out­break has spread to a city of over 1 mil­lion, a wor­ry­ing shift as the virus trav­els more eas­ily in densely pop­u­lated...

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