DR Congo Hopes To Declare End To Ebola Outbreak In April

 

DR Congo health officials said Monday they were “keeping fingers crossed” to declare the end of the devastating 19-month epidemic next month.

While the world’s attention has been focused on the coronavirus, the last patient under treatment for Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo was discharged on Tuesday.

If no more cases are diagnosed, the epidemic will officially end on April 12, or 42 days from the date of the last confirmed patient’s second negative test.

“Today, March 9 is the 21st day without any new confirmed case,” said Jean-Jacques Muyembe, who is in charge of the Ebola fight.

“We are keeping our fingers crossed that until then, there are no incidents,” he told a news conference.

“The greatest challenge for us today is to follow up on survivors because some continue to secrete the virus in their seminal fluids,” he said, adding that they were being treated to avoid infecting their partners.

READ ALSO: Burkina Faso Attacks Kill 43

DR Congo’s most recent Ebola outbreak was first identified in August 2018, and WHO declared it a “public health emergency of international concern” last July.

It has killed 2,264 people in DR Congo in the vast central African country’s 10th Ebola epidemic since 1976.

It is the second-most deadly Ebola epidemic in history after an outbreak that killed more than 11,000 people in West Africa from 2013 to 2016.

Since that time, the health authorities have gained a more powerful weapon against the disease: vaccination. Nearly 320,00 people have been vaccinated so far in DR Congo.

AFP

Nigeria’s Healthcare System ‘Not Perfect’, Needs Boost – Mamora

The Minister of State for Health, Dr Olorunnimbe Mamora.

 

 

The Minister of State for Health, Dr Olorunnimbe Mamora, says the healthcare system in the country is not perfect.

Speaking during his appearance on Channels Television’s Sunrise, he stated that the present situation was not one Nigeria cannot handle.

“We do have a health system that can cope but that is not to say it is perfect. We still need to do a lot of health system strengthening,” the minister said on Saturday.

READ ALSO: 11 More People Die As Lassa Fever Death Toll Hits 132

Mamora believes a bulk of what should be done is at the grassroots where the people can be better enlightened and educated on how to take care of themselves.

He stated, “The healthcare delivery is a pyramid and at the base of that pyramid is the primary health because that is where you can easily give information to the people.

“The bulk of our people still live in the rural area and that’s one of the areas where the primary health is supposed to serve.”

 

The minister spoke about the efforts of the Federal Government towards tackling the spread of coronavirus and Lassa fever.

He stressed the need to pay more attention to the outbreak of Lassa which has killed scores of people in the country.

 

132 Killed

Mamora said, “Ebola, coronavirus (COVID-19); these are imported [disease], not something with us. But Lassa is with us, and it’s mainly an environmental issue which we need to deal with.

“The hype, the hysteria, the fear attached to COVID-19 essentially has to do with the ease of transmission. That why it is going viral all over the world … and it is no respecter of anyone.”

On Wednesday, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) in its latest situation report said 11 more people have died from the outbreak of Lassa fever since the beginning of the year.

The deaths were recorded in the ninth week which covered between 24 February and March 1, bringing the number of people killed to 132 in 2020.

The NCDC noted that a total of 85 new cases were confirmed in the week from Edo, Ondo, Ebonyi, Bauchi, Plateau, Benue, Kogi, Taraba, and Kebbi States.

It said in total, 27 States have recorded at least one confirmed case across 118 Local Government Areas since the beginning of the year.

WHO Seeks $20m To Fight Ebola In DR Congo

World Health Organization (WHO) Assistant Director-General Ibrahima-Soce Fall attends a press conference on the WHO Ebola operations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo on March 6, 2020 in Geneva. Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP
World Health Organization (WHO) Assistant Director-General Ibrahima-Soce Fall attends a press conference on the WHO Ebola operations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo on March 6, 2020 in Geneva. Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

 

The World Health Organization said Friday it needs $20 million to fight Ebola in DR Congo, even as the end of the devastating 19-month epidemic finally seemed within grasp. 

While the world’s attention has been focused on the coronavirus, the last patient being treated for Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo was discharged on Tuesday.

If no more cases are diagnosed, the epidemic will officially end within 42 days from the date of the last confirmed patient’s second negative test.

“The end of the outbreak will be declared on April 12” barring further cases, WHO assistant director-general for emergency response Ibrahima Soce Fall told the media in Geneva on Friday.

But he issued a note of warning, saying “it is critical to maintain surveillance and rapid response capacity” in order to quickly diagnose any new cases.

“We have over 1,169 survivors. So we have an important programme to continue to provide care to survivors, but also to make sure that we don’t have any flare-ups,” he added.

“We know that the focus is more now on COVID-19, but… we still need an additional $20 million for WHO to maintain the team on the ground because Ebola is also a matter of global health security.”

DR Congo’s most recent Ebola outbreak was first identified in August 2018 and WHO declared it a “public health emergency of international concern” last July.

It has killed 2,264 people in DR Congo, the vast central African country’s tenth Ebola epidemic since 1976.

It is the second-most deadly Ebola epidemic in history, after an outbreak killed more than 11,000 people in West Africa from 2013 to 2016.

Since that time, the health authorities have gained a more powerful weapon against the disease: vaccination. Nearly 320,00 people have been vaccinated so far in DR Congo.

 

AFP

WHO To Decide On Emergency Status Of Ebola In DR Congo

 

UN health agency experts meet on Wednesday to decide whether the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo should still be considered a global health emergency, following a sharp decline in reported cases.

The World Health Organization last July declared it a “public health emergency of international concern” — a designation that gives the WHO greater powers to restrict travel and boost funding.

The outbreak was first identified in August 2018 and has since killed more than 2,300 people in eastern DR Congo — an area where several militia groups are operating.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Tuesday said he was “encouraged” by an improvement in the situation, with only three cases reported in the past week.

But he added: “It’s not over. Any single case could reignite the epidemic.”

For the epidemic to be declared over, there have to be no new cases reported for 42 days — double the incubation period.

“Although the world is now focused on coronavirus, we cannot and must not forget Ebola,” Tedros said, adding that he would travel to DR Congo on Thursday to meet President Felix Tshisekedi.

The decision is ultimately up to the WHO’s Emergency Committee — a group of international experts that meets every three months once an emergency has been declared.

The designation last year came a few days after a patient was diagnosed with the virus in the provincial capital Goma — the first case in a major urban hub.

More than a month before that, the WHO reported that the virus had spread to Uganda for the first time.

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

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

This is the second worst outbreak of the disease since 2014 when it killed about 11,000 people — mostly in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Efforts to contain the current outbreak have been hindered by attacks on health workers and conflicts in the east.

The WHO said in November it had moved 49 staff out of the Beni region in eastern DR Congo because of the insecurity.

The Beni region, straddling the North Kivu and Ituri provinces, has been repeatedly attacked by the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebel group, which civic activists say has massacred more than 300 people since October.

AFP

DRC Records 20 Ebola Cases In Three Days

 

Twenty cases of Ebola have been recorded in three days in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, where deadly violence is hampering efforts to end the 16-month-old epidemic, the authorities said on Thursday.

Ten cases were notified on Wednesday alone in Mabalako in North Kivu province, after six on Tuesday, according to the Multisectoral Committee for Epidemic Response (CMRE).

Three out of the six are practitioners of traditional medicine, it said.

More than 2,200 people have died since the epidemic was declared on August 1, 2018.

As of November 22, the rate of new cases had fallen to 10 per week.

CMRE said “security reasons” — attacks on Ebola health workers and sites by armed groups and angry youths — had “paralysed” work in the key zones of Beni, Biakato and Mangina.

The attacks led to a pullout of locally-employed Ebola workers in Biakato by the UN’s World Health Organization (WHO) and Doctors Without Borders (MSF).

AFP

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.