By Yashim Katurak
The World Health Organisation (WHO) said it had taken measures to effectively respond to the recent outbreak of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Regional Director of WHO for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, said in a statement on Sunday in Abuja said that the organisation would work with the UN and other partners to halt the spread of the disease.
Moeti said WHO had assured the DRC Government of its preparedness to respond to the outbreak of the scourge after the government’s alarm on it.
She said that as at Sunday, 11 suspected cases, including three deaths, had been reported, adding that the disease had been discovered in Likati health zone, Bas Uele Province in northern part of the country.
She stated that the organization had mobilised technical experts for deployment to Congo, adding that it would also provide leadership expertise to attain coordinated and effective response.
“On May 10, 2017, a multi-disciplinary team led by the Ministry of Health and supported by WHO under the new WHO Emergency Programme, and partners, was deployed to Likati health zone to conduct in-depth field investigation.
“The health zone is situated in the remote, isolated and hard-to-reach northern part of the country with limited transport and communication networks.
“These factors have impeded transmission of information about the suspected outbreak. Currently, it takes about two to three days to reach the epicenter from Kinshasa.
“The Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN) has been activated to provide additional support if required.
“Reinforcement of epidemiological surveillance, contact tracing, case management, and community engagement are under way,” Moeti said.
She added that the full extent of the current outbreak of Ebola in DRC was yet clear, stating that extensive investigation and risk assessment were still being conducted.
She said that the findings from the investigation would be communicated accordingly.
According to Moeti, WHO does not recommend any restriction on travel and trade to DRC based on available information.
She urged the public in DRC to work with health authorities and take necessary preventive measures to protect their health.
In the statement, she quoted DR Congo Minister of Health, Dr Oly Kalenga, as expressing appreciation to WHO for the swift support in carrying out investigations that led to the confirmation of the outbreak.
Kalenga said a strong multi-sectoral response, better coordination, public awareness, community engagement and adequate resources would be critical in the country’s effort to stop the Ebola spread.
According to him, the first case occurred on April 22 in a 45-year-old male. He was transported by taxi to hospital and was dead on arrival. The driver also fell ill and later died.
“A third person who cared for the first case also became ill and has subsequently died. At present, 25 contacts of the second patient who died are being followed.
“Of the cases and deaths, one has been tested PCR-positive for Ebola. This is the eighth outbreak of Ebola virus disease in DRC since its discovery in 1976.
“On November 20, 2014, in line with WHO recommendations, the DRC Ministry of Health and WHO declared the end of the Ebola virus disease outbreak that started on August 24, 2014.
“This outbreak resulted in a total of 38 laboratory-confirmed cases and 28 probable cases, including 49 deaths in the Boende, Equateur province,” Kalenga said.