WHO Relocates Staff From DRC’s Beni Amid Unrest

 

The World Health Organization said on Tuesday it had moved 49 staff out of Beni, eastern DR Congo, overnight amid growing insecurity, but warned of the impact on the fight against Ebola.

The UN health agency said it had flown more than a third of its 120 staff in Beni to Goma, further south on the country’s eastern border, as insecurity in the area surged.

But it said 71 essential staff remained in the town to try to push on with work to rein in the Ebola outbreak that has left some 2,200 dead.

“The violence needs to stop… This is very bad for the Ebola response,” WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier told journalists in Geneva.

Insecurity has complicated efforts to rein in Ebola since the latest outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo began in August 2018.

But violence in the lawless east of the country has recently surged, with 77 civilians killed in the Beni region since November 5, according to a not-for-profit organisation, the Congo Research Group (CRG).

On Monday, at least four protesters were killed, according to the military, after clashes broke out and protesters stormed a UN camp over the perceived failure of UN peacekeepers to stop deadly attacks from militia groups.

“The security situation in Beni has definitely worsened overnight, or throughout the last days,” Lindmeier said.

But he stressed that unlike several previous spikes in violence, the anger this time had not specifically targeted Ebola responders.

Cases will rise

“As the community violence is not directed at the Ebola response, we will try as long as possible to maintain a minimum support for the community,” he said, stressing that those moved to Goma would also continue working remotely.

But the insecurity is nonetheless seriously hampering the response.

“Every day, every hour (that) we cannot go out (to) trace the contacts, help the communities with dignified burials, go out for vaccinations and for treatments … will most certainly result in rising cases,” Lindmeier said.

The Ebola virus is passed on by contact with the blood, body fluids, secretions or organs of an infected or recently deceased person.

The work to halt the Ebola epidemic is based on vaccinating and carefully tracking anyone who has been in contact with those infected, and the contacts of the contacts.

Lindmeier said that while health workers typically are able to successfully track more than 90 percent of all contacts, on Monday they only reached 17 percent.

Mike Ryan, WHO’s emergency response chief warned last week that the violence and lack of access was “now preventing us ending this outbreak”.

Over the week ending on November 24, seven new cases were registered, bringing the total number of cases to 3,303, including 2,199 deaths, WHO said.

AFP

President Tshisekedi Hopes To End Ebola In DR Congo By December

President of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) Felix Tshisekedi reviews the guard of honor as he visits Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni to discuss business between the two countries at the statehouse in Entebbe, Uganda, on November 9, 2019.
Sumy Sadurni / AFP

 

DR Congo President Felix Tshisekedi on Friday voiced hope that the Ebola epidemic in his country would be stamped out by the end of the year.

“We believe that by the end of the year we will have eradicated the disease entirely,” Tshisekedi said during a visit to Berlin.

The epidemic began in August 2018 in North Kivu province before spreading to neighbouring Ituri and South Kivu — a remote and largely lawless region bordering Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi.

READ ALSO: Second Ebola Vaccine Introduced In DR Congo

It has killed more than 2,000 people to date and is the second Ebola outbreak deadliest on record after an outbreak that struck West Africa in 2014-16, claiming more than 11,300 lives.

DRC officials have introduced two vaccines to fight the epidemic.

The Ebola virus is passed on by contact with the blood, body fluids, secretions or organs of an infected or recently deceased person.

Following an incubation period of up to three weeks, a high fever develops, along with weakness, intense muscle and joint pain, headaches and a sore throat.

This is often followed by vomiting and diarrhea, skin eruptions, kidney and liver failure, and internal and external bleeding.

The death rate is typically high, ranging up to 90 percent in some outbreaks, according to the WHO.

The virus’s natural reservoir is suspected to be a tropical bat that does not itself fall ill but can pass on the microbe to humans who hunt it for food.

AFP

Second Ebola Vaccine Introduced In DR Congo

The Democratic Republic of Congo on  Thursday introduced a second vaccine to fight a 15-month-old epidemic of Ebola in the east of the country, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said.

The new vaccine, produced by a Belgian subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, will be administered to about 50,000 people over four months, the charity said.

More than a quarter of a million people, many of them frontline health workers, have been immunised with another anti-Ebola vaccine in a programme begun last year.

The epidemic began in August 2018 in the province of North Kivu before spreading to neighbouring Ituri and South Kivu — a remote and largely lawless region bordering Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi.

The notorious haemorrhagic virus has so far killed 2,193 people, according to the latest official figures.

It is the DRC’s 10th Ebola epidemic and the second deadliest on record after an outbreak that struck West Africa in 2014-16, claiming more than 11,300 lives.

 Two-dose vaccine

Fifteen people received an injection of the new vaccine in MSF facilities in the North Kivu capital of Goma early Thursday, a spokeswoman for the charity said.

The formula is administered in two doses at 56-day intervals, and those who have received the vaccine have been reminded to return for the second shot, she said.

The disease’s epicentre is about 350 kilometres (220 miles) north of Goma, a sprawling urban hub of between one and two million people on the border with Rwanda.

Four Ebola cases were recorded in the city in July and August, sparking fears the virus could spin out of control in a chaotic, mobile environment.

Efforts to combat Ebola in eastern DR Congo have been hampered by militia violence and local resistance to preventative measures, care facilities and safe burials.

Health workers have been attacked 300 times, leaving six people dead and 70 wounded since the start of the year.

Despite these problems, statistics point to a downward trend.

The health ministry late Wednesday said it had recorded four new cases of Ebola but no deaths, while 508 suspected cases were being monitored.

“In its current phase, the epidemic is not urban but has become rural,” Professor Jean-Jacques Muyemebe, in charge of coordinating the anti-Ebola fight, said last month.

“We have to track it down, force it into a corner and eliminate it,” he said.

Novel vaccines

The new J&J vaccine was initially rejected by DRC’s former health minister Oly Ilunga, who cited the risks of introducing a new product in communities where mistrust of Ebola responders is already high.

But Ilunga’s resignation in July appears to have paved the way for approval of the second vaccine. He currently faces charges that he embezzled Ebola funds.

Both vaccines are novel formulas that, when they were introduced, had been tested for safety but were unlicensed, meaning that they had yet to achieve formal approval from drug authorities.

The first vaccine, rVSV-ZEBOV, has been given to 251,079 people, according to figures released late Wednesday.

Manufactured by the US laboratory Merck Sharpe and Dohme (MSD), the vaccine was licensed by the European Commission last week. It is being marketed under the brand name of Ervebo.

On Tuesday, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced it had “prequalified” Ervebo — an important regulatory procedure that will allow the drug to be quickly deployed in future Ebola outbreaks.

Feared virus

The Ebola virus is passed on by contact with the blood, body fluids, secretions or organs of an infected or recently deceased person.

Following incubation of up to three weeks, a high fever develops, coinciding with weakness, intense muscle and joint pain, headaches and a sore throat.

This is often followed by vomiting and diarrhoea, skin eruptions, kidney and liver failure, and internal and external bleeding.

The death rate is typically high, ranging up to 90 percent in some outbreaks, according to the WHO.

The virus’s natural reservoir is suspected to be a tropical bat which does not itself fall ill but can pass on the microbe to humans who hunt it for food.

AFP

Ebola: Attackers Kill Journalist Shedding Light On Virus

Health workers participating in an Ebola preparedness drill. AFP photo.

 

A radio host who helped spread the word in the fight against Ebola has been stabbed to death at his home in northeast Democratic Republic of Congo, the army said Sunday.

The motive for the murder in the town of Lwemba in the troubled Ituri region was unknown, but it came as health authorities were set to introduce a new vaccine against the disease in unaffected areas.

The attackers killed 35-year-old Papy Mumbere Mahamba and wounded his wife before burning down their home late Saturday, General Robert Yav, the commander of Congolese army forces in the Ituri town of Mambasa, told AFP.

Professor Steve Ahuka, national coordinator of the fight against Ebola, confirmed a local worker in Lwemba had been killed.

A journalist at Radio Lwemba, the local radio station where Mahamba worked, also confirmed the details.

“Our colleague Papy Mumbere Mahamba was killed at his home by unknown attackers” who stabbed him to death, Jacques Kamwina told AFP.

The Observatory for  Press Freedom in  Africa (OLPA), based in the DRC, called on the Ituri authorities to conduct a “serious investigation” into the murder.

DR Congo declared an Ebola epidemic in August 2018 in the conflict-wracked eastern provinces of North Kivu, South Kivu and Ituri, bordering Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi.

The highly contagious haemorrhagic fever has so far killed 2,185 people, according to the latest official figures.

Efforts to roll back the epidemic have been hampered not only by fighting but also by resistance within communities to preventative measures, care facilities and safe burials.

It is the DRC’s 10th Ebola epidemic and the second deadliest on record after an outbreak that struck West Africa in 2014-16, claiming more than 11,300 lives.

Health workers have repeatedly come under attack.

A Cameroonian doctor from the World Health Organization (WHO), Richard Valery Mouzoko Kiboung, was shot dead in April in an attack on a hospital in North Kivu province.

A nurse and a police officer were killed in similar circumstances since the start of the epidemic.

In September, militiamen torched around 20 homes of health workers fighting Ebola in the area around Mambasa.

 Dangerous burial traditions 

The WHO has warned violence undermines the fight against Ebola, notably impeding safe burials of the highly contagious bodies and the administering of vaccines.

People often refuse to forgo traditional burial rites involving kissing, washing and touching of the dead body.

Funerals can become “super-spreading events” with up to 70 people infected in a single ceremony, according to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).

To prevent contagion, health workers and volunteers form safe burial teams but deep mistrust of outsiders often hinders access to bereaved families.

Many people see Ebola as a hoax invented by medical personnel in order to land well-paid jobs.

New vaccine 

On Saturday, the authorities said they had received 11,000 doses of a second anti-Ebola vaccine from Belgium, the DRC’s former colonial power.

The Ad26-ZEBOV-GP vaccine — an experimental product– is to be used to protect those living outside of direct Ebola transmission zones.

The vaccine developed by US pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson will be administered only to those who want it, the ministry said.

It will complement a first vaccine, rVSV-ZEBOV-GF, manufactured by the US firm Merck Sharpe and Dohme (MSD), used in Ebola-infected areas to protect those who may have come into contact with victims of the disease.

Nearly 250,000 people have been vaccinated since the start of the programme in August 2018.

AFP

First Shipment Of New Ebola Vaccine Arrives In DR Congo

A young man receives a vaccine against Ebola from a nurse in Goma on August 7, 2019. Three cases of the deadly virus were detected in the border city of Goma, the Congolese presidency said on August 1, 2019. Augustin WAMENYA / AFP

 

The Congolese medical authorities said Saturday they had received the first shipment of a new Ebola vaccine as the central African country battles its second deadliest outbreak of the virus this decade.

The health ministry for the eastern province of North Kivu said that a preliminary batch of 11,000 doses of the new Ad26-ZEBOV-GP vaccine manufactured by Johnson & Johnson had arrived on Friday.

In all, a shipment of a total 50,000 doses is being sent to the Democratic Republic of Congo to help fight an outbreak that has killed more than 2,100 people since August 2018.

Until now, the only vaccine against the disease was one manufactured by US firm, Merck Sharpe and Dohme.

The DRC’s deadliest Ebola outbreak since the West Africa pandemic in 2014-2016 has affected the provinces of North Kivu, South Kivu and Ituri and left 2,183 people dead, according to the latest official figures.

Since the start of the vaccination campaign on August 8, 2018, a total of 245,999 people have been vaccinated.

Ebola fighters have been hindered by chronic insecurity in the affected provinces of eastern DRC, but much of the controversy surrounding the response has centred on the use of vaccines.

The World Health Organization had been pushing Kinshasa for months to approve the use of the J&J vaccine — an experimental product– to protect those living outside of direct transmission zones.

The J&J vaccine had been rejected by DRC’s former health minister Oly Ilunga, who cited the risks of introducing a new product in communities where mistrust of Ebola responders is already high.

But Ilunga’s resignation in July appeared to have paved the way for the second vaccine.

Jean-Jacques Muyembe, the new head of the anti-Ebola campaign, said Friday the J&J vaccine would be used from mid-November with the operation being launched simultaneously in DR Congo and Rwanda.

AFP

Central African Countries Hold Talks On Boosting Anti-Ebola Fight

 

Health ministers in 10 central African countries have held talks on boosting data sharing and cross-border surveillance in the fight against Ebola, the Democratic Republic of Congo announced Tuesday.

Health Minister Eteni Longondo and counterparts from the nine countries bordering the DRC met on Monday to swap views on “developing a framework for cross-border collaboration,” the health ministry said.

The strategy aims at ensuring “timely sharing of critical information for rapid response and control of the epidemic… (and) strengthening cross-border health surveillance”, it said in a statement.

The DRC’s latest Ebola epidemic, the 10th in the country’s history, has killed 2,171 people since August 2018, according to official figures.

It is the world’s deadliest outbreak of the haemorrhagic virus after a pandemic in three West African countries that ran from 2014 to 2016 and claimed more than 11,300 lives.

On Friday, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the DRC epidemic remains a global “public health emergency,” a status that ensures a heightened response from among WHO members.

The meeting of health ministers was organised in the eastern city of Goma in partnership with the WHO and the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), a health arm of the African Union.

Representatives from Angola, Burundi, the Central African Republic, the Republic of Congo, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia attended.

Of the DRC’s neighbours, Uganda is the only one to have recorded cases of Ebola on its territory, registering four cases, but thousands of people cross the DRC’s borders each day.

AFP

Ebola Still An ‘Urgent’ Global Health Emergency – WHO

 

The deadly Ebola epidemic in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) remains an “urgent” global health emergency, The World Health Organization (WHO) said Friday at its Emergency Committee meeting.

DRC’s latest Ebola epidemic, which began in August 2018, has killed 2,144 people, making it the second deadliest outbreak of the virus, after the West Africa pandemic of 2014-2016.

“The public health emergency will be maintained for an additional three months”, WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a press conference.

“This outbreak remains a complex and dangerous outbreak,” he said, deploring the lack of funding.

The status of a global health emergency is an exceptional measure that has been used by the WHO four times: in 2009 for the Swine flu virus, in 2014 for polio, in 2014 for the Ebola epidemic which killed more than 11,000 in Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone and in 2016 for the Zika virus.

Last week, the director of the WHO Emergency Program, Michael Ryan, expressed “cautious optimism” that the epidemic was confined to a smaller region.

The DRC health ministry said earlier this week Ebola had returned to Ituri province in the north-east of the country after nearly 300 days without any new cases.

“The number of cases has declined each week for the past four weeks. But these encouraging trends should be interpreted with caution,” Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

“The area is a very complex area, it’s a very volatile area. We have made very significant progress, the number of cases have plummeted.

“But if there is insecurity incidents, we may lose what we have gained so far.”

Since the most recent Ebola outbreak, a vaccine a developed by Merck Sharp and Dohme has been used on more than 230,000 people.

On Friday, the vaccine which has yet to be licensed, received a green light from The European Medicines Agency (EMA) in a step towards its commercialisation.

A second experimental vaccine manufactured by the Belgian subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson is to be introduced in November, according to DR Congo medical officials.

DRC Approves Use Of Second Experimental Ebola Vaccine

The Democratic Republic of the Congo is to introduce a second vaccine next month to combat the Ebola virus, which has killed more than 2,100 people in the country, /AFP

 

The Democratic Republic of Congo will introduce a second Ebola vaccine next month, the World Health Organization said Monday, as a top medical charity accused the UN agency of rationing doses of the main drug to protect against the disease.

DRC’s latest Ebola epidemic, which began in August 2018, has killed more than 2,100 people, making it the second deadliest outbreak of the virus, after the West Africa pandemic of 2014-2016.

Ebola fighters have been hindered by chronic insecurity in the affected provinces of eastern DRC, but much of the controversy surrounding the response has centred on the use of vaccines.

READ ALSO: Mugabe Died Of Cancer, Says Zimbabwe Media

More than 223,000 people living in active Ebola transmission zones have received a vaccination produced by the pharma giant Merck.

The WHO has for month been pushing Kinshasa to approve the use of a second experimental product, made by Johnson & Johnson, to protect those living outside of direct transmission zones.

The J&J vaccine had been rejected by DRC’s former health minister Oly Ilunga, who cited the risks of introducing a new product in communities where mistrust of Ebola responders is already high.

But Ilunga’s resignation in July appeared to pave the way for approval of the second vaccine.

In a statement issued on Monday, the health ministry said the second vaccine would be used as a “preventive” measure, given the risk that stocks of the Merck vaccine could run out if the epidemic persists.

The ministry said it had scrutinised candidate Ebola vaccines, and “the Johnson & Johnson vaccine has most scientific data… it is not toxic and can provide protection.”

“This vaccine presents no danger to the public,” the statement said, adding that the first priority would be to use it to inoculate “Congolese traders who regularly visit Rwanda.”

“We must also protect Rwanda”, it said.

The WHO said in a statement that DRC planned to introduce the J&J product from “mid-October.”

“This vaccine, which is given as a 2-dose course, 56 days apart, will be provided under approved protocols to targeted at-risk populations in areas that do not have active Ebola transmission as an additional tool to extend protection against the virus.”

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus praised the latest decision by DRC authorities, who he said “have once again shown leadership and their determination to end this outbreak as soon as possible”.

– ‘Rationing’? –
Doctors Without Borders, which has repeatedly criticised WHO’s leadership of the Ebola response, levelled fresh criticism against the agency on Monday.

“One of the main problems currently is the fact that, in practice, the (Merck) vaccine is rationed by the WHO and that too few people at risk are protected today,” the charity known by its French acronym MSF said in a statement.

In an interview with AFP in July, MSF’s international president Joanne Liu called on WHO to vaccinate whole villages where Ebola cases had emerged, rather than simply targeting the contacts of those infected.

The charity also renewed its complaints over “the opaque management of the vaccine supplied by the World Health Organization.”

“It’s like giving firefighters a bucket of water to put out a fire, but only allowing them to use one cup of water a day,” Natalie Roberts, MSF’s emergency coordinator,” said in a statement.

“Merck recently stated that in addition to the 245,000 doses already delivered to WHO, they are ready to ship another 190,000 doses if required and that 650,000 additional doses will be available over the next six to 18 months,” MSF said.

The charity also called for the creation of “an independent international coordination committee” to “guarantee the transparency of the management of stocks and data sharing”.

– ‘Everything possible’ –
The WHO denied limiting the availability of the vaccine, saying it was doing “everything possible” to end the epidemic.

“Along with the DRC government, no-one wants to bring this epidemic to an end more than WHO,” the agency’s emergency director, Mike Ryan, said in a statement.

The WHO is “not limiting access to the vaccine but rather implementing a strategy recommended by an independent advisory body of experts,” Ryan added.

The agency said last week that as of September 17, DRC had registered a total of 3,145 cases of Ebola since the outbreak began over a year ago, including 2,103 deaths.

It has declared the Ebola epidemic a “public health emergency of international concern”, a rare designation used only for the gravest epidemics.

Tanzania Not Sharing Information On Suspected Ebola – WHO

Health workers participating in an Ebola preparedness drill. AFP photo.

 

 

The World Health Organization has accused Tanzania of failing to provide information on suspected cases of Ebola in the country, potentially hindering efforts to curb the spread of the deadly virus.

East African nations have been on high alert over an outbreak of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which has left 2,103 people dead. Four people were diagnosed with the virus in Uganda and later died.

The WHO said it had learned on September 10 of a suspected case of the disease in Tanzania’s port city of Dar es Salaam, and information emerged that this patient’s contacts had been quarantined, and that the person had tested positive for Ebola.

Two other suspected cases were also unofficially reported.

“Despite several requests, WHO did not receive further details of any of these cases from Tanzanian authorities,” the organisation said in a statement issued Saturday.

On September 14 Tanzanian authorities officially reported there was no Ebola in the country, but declined “secondary confirmation testing” at a WHO centre, the global body said.

Then on Thursday, the WHO was made aware that a contact of the initial patient was sick and in hospital.

“To date, the clinical details and the results of the investigation, including laboratory tests performed for differential diagnosis of these patients, have not been shared with WHO.”

‘Very high risk’

The lack of information received by WHO meant it cannot determine the cause of the illness, it said.

“The limited available official information from Tanzanian authorities represents a challenge for assessing the risk posed by this event.”

The WHO determined that because the initial patient travelled widely in the country and due to uncertainty around the cases, the lack of information and the fact that, if confirmed, it would be the first-ever outbreak of Ebola in the country, “the risk was assessed as very high at national level”.

“At this stage, WHO is not aware of signs of a widespread transmission of any illness related to these cases, however investigations, including with the support of WHO Collaborating Centres, should continue to reach a diagnosis and further inform the risk assessment,” said the statement.

They also warned of a high risk for the region.

The ongoing Ebola outbreak is the second-worst in history after more than 11,000 people died in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia between 2014 and 2016.

But the containment efforts have been hindered from the start by conflict in eastern DRC, as well as attacks on medical teams tackling the haemorrhagic fever amid resistance within some communities to preventative measures, care facilities and safe burials.

Former Health Minister Arrested For Embezzling Ebola Funds In DR Congo

 

Former DR Congo health minister Oly Ilunga has been arrested over allegations he embezzled public funds to tackle the Ebola epidemic, police said on Saturday.

Ilunga, who resigned as health minister in July after being removed as head of the country’s Ebola response team, was detained while hiding in an apartment in the capital Kinshasa ahead of a bid to flee the country, officers said.

He is in custody due to “misdemeanors of the mismanagement of funds allocated to the Ebola response,” police spokesman Colonel Pierrot-Rombaut Mwanamputu told AFP.

Ilunga will be referred to prosecutors on Monday, he added.

It comes after Ilunga was questioned in August as part of an inquiry into the management of funds to fight the outbreak, which has claimed more than 2,000 lives since August 2018.

Ilunga, 59, had already been banned from leaving the country.

He stepped down after criticising plans by the UN’s World Health Organization (WHO) to introduce a new, unlicensed vaccine to fight the epidemic.

His lawyer told AFP in September that some payments had been made to local chiefs after the killing of a WHO doctor in April.

More than 200,000 people have been vaccinated during DR Congo’s tenth and most serious Ebola epidemic.

It is the second-worst Ebola outbreak in history after more than 11,000 people were killed in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia between 2014 and 2016.

Ebola Death Toll Crosses 2,000 DR Congo Ahead Of UN chief’s Visit

Health workers participating in an Ebola preparedness drill. AFP photo.

 

The Ebola outbreak in DR Congo showed no signs of easing Friday on the eve of the UN chief’s visit to the country, with the death toll from the highly contagious virus crossing 2,000 and a new fatality in neighbouring Uganda.

The latest casualty in Uganda was a nine-year-old girl from the Democratic Republic of Congo, reviving fears that the virus could cross the porous borders of the central African country, where it erupted in August last year.

DR Congo health officials said late Thursday that there have been “2,006 deaths (1,901 confirmed and 105 probable)” since August 2018. adding that 902 people had been cured.

The toll is a setback coming a day before UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres visits for a first-hand assessment of the fightback.

Guterres wants to “express support for the teams engaged in the Ebola fightback,” the UN said.

More than 200,000 people have been vaccinated during DR Congo’s tenth and most serious Ebola epidemic.

It is the second-worst Ebola outbreak in history after more than 11,000 people were killed in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia between 2014 and 2016.

Containment efforts have been hindered by conflict in eastern DRC as well as attacks on Ebola fighters within affected communities.

“For the moment, the situation is better than the past weeks. But in certain zones, there are many cases of community resistance. These are the zones which have brought forth the most confirmed cases,” Robert Bahidika Nasekwa from Oxfam said.

“As a result, those who came in contact with confirmed cases have not been followed up,” he said.

Jean-Edmond Bwanakawa Masumbuko, the mayor of Beni — a major city which Guterres is due to visit — said some people “had the tendency of viewing Ebola treatment centres as deathtraps.

“Out of the city’s 14 zones, there are only four which continue to pose problems,” he said.

Fourth Uganda death

The nine-year-old girl who tested positive in Uganda after travelling from DR Congo died early Friday, a Ugandan health official told AFP.

“She passed on at around 0800 (0500 GMT) this morning,” said Yusuf Baseka, health director in Kasese, a district in southwestern Uganda along the border with DR Congo.

The child was diagnosed after exhibiting symptoms at a border crossing in Kasese on Wednesday.

She was subsequently isolated and transferred to an Ebola treatment unit.

The girl is the fourth victim diagnosed with Ebola in Uganda, which has been on high alert since last year, to have died from the virus.

In June, three members of a single-family tested positive after entering from DR Congo. Two died in Uganda, while the third succumbed to the disease after returning to DR Congo.

The outbreak of the haemorrhagic virus began in the North Kivu province in eastern DR Congo on August 1, 2018, and spread to the neighbouring Ituri province.

The pathogen causes fever, vomiting and severe diarrhoea, often followed by kidney and liver failure, and internal and external bleeding.

The disease is spread by contact with infected bodily fluids and is fought with the time-honoured but laborious techniques of tracing contacts and quarantining them.

Stepped up checks

The WHO has declared the epidemic a “public health emergency of international concern”.

The virus has also spread to DR Congo’s South Kivu province, which shares a land border with Rwanda and Burundi.

Screening is vital but imperfect.

Ebola can take up to three weeks to incubate and cannot be spread until the infected person has symptoms, the WHO says.

But it can be difficult to clinically tell Ebola from malaria, typhoid fever or meningitis.

Uganda has stepped up checks for hundreds of schoolchildren who cross over from DR Congo every day to attend school there as jobs and educational opportunities are greater.

But it is not without inconvenience.

“Sometimes we get to school late, because we have to be in line for checking and it takes time,” said Doreane Kambari, a 16-year-old attending high school in Bwera in Kasese.

AFP

Ebola Death Toll Crosses 2,000 In DR Congo

 

The Ebola outbreak showed no signs of easing in DR Congo Friday on the eve of the UN chief’s visit, with the death toll from the highly contagious virus crossing 2,000 and a new fatality in neighbouring Uganda.

The latest casualty in Uganda was a nine-year-old girl from the Democratic Republic of Congo, reviving fears that the virus could cross the porous borders of the central African country, where it erupted in August last year.

DR Congo health officials said late Thursday that there have been “2,006 deaths (1,901 confirmed and 105 probable)” since August 2018.

“Since the start of the epidemic, the number of cases is 3,004, including 2,899 confirmed and 105 probable,” a bulletin said, adding that 902 people had been cured.

The toll is a setback for the beleaguered country, coming a day before UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres visits for a first-hand assessment of the fightback.

It is the second-worst Ebola outbreak in history after more than 11,000 people were killed in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia between 2014 and 2016.

Containment efforts have been hindered by conflict in eastern DRC as well as attacks on Ebola fighters within affected communities.

Fourth Uganda Death

The nine-year-old girl who tested positive in Uganda after travelling from DR Congo died early Friday, a Ugandan health official told AFP.

“She passed on at around 0800 (0500 GMT) this morning,” said Yusuf Baseka, health director in Kasese, a district in southwestern Uganda along the border with DR Congo.

The child was diagnosed after exhibiting symptoms at a border crossing in Kasese on Wednesday.

She was subsequently isolated and transferred to an Ebola treatment unit.

The girl is the fourth victim diagnosed with Ebola in Uganda, which has been on high alert since last year, to have died from the virus.

In June, three members of a single family tested positive after entering from DR Congo. Two died in Uganda, while the third succumbed to the disease after returning to DR Congo.

The outbreak of the haemorrhagic virus began in the North Kivu province in eastern DR Congo on August 1, 2018, and spread to the neighbouring Ituri province.

The pathogen causes fever, vomiting and severe diarrhoea, often followed by kidney and liver failure, and internal and external bleeding.

The disease is spread by contact with infected bodily fluids and is fought with the time-honoured but laborious techniques of tracing contacts and quarantining them.

Stepped Up Checks

Ebola is named after a river in northern DR Congo, formerly named Zaire, where the virus was first identified in 1976.

The WHO has declared the epidemic a “public health emergency of international concern”.

The virus has also spread to DR Congo’s South Kivu province, which shares a land border with Rwanda and Burundi.

Screening is vital, but imperfect.

Ebola can take up to three weeks to incubate and cannot be spread until the infected person has symptoms, the WHO says.

But it can be difficult to clinically tell Ebola from malaria, typhoid fever or meningitis.

Uganda has stepped up checks for hundreds of schoolchildren who cross over from DR Congo every day to attend school there as jobs and educational opportunities are greater.

But it is not without inconvenience.

“Sometimes we get to school late, because we have to be in line for checking and it takes time,” said Doreane Kambari, a 16-year-old attending high school in Bwera in Kasese.

Francis Tumwine, an International Committee of the Red Cross worker at Mpondwe, said creating public awareness of the disease was critically important to quashing the rumours around it.

“The fear of Congolese children bringing Ebola into schools was very real,” he told AFP.

“But we taught people about the virus, and they now know what to do.”