There’s ‘strong progress’ in fighting Ebola in Congo

The death of Ebola

The death of Ebola

UNICEF said June 5 that almost 300,000 people had been screened since the Ebola outbreak was confirmed May 8 by the World Health Organization.

On 4 June, an ethics committee in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) approved the use of five investigational therapeutics to treat Ebola, under the framework of compassionate use/expanded access.

The forested terrain is so rough that even four-wheel-drive vehicles can't reach the area, which has no electricity, WHO's emergency response chief Peter Salama told reporters in Geneva. Salama gave a press briefing over the WHO's Twitter account earlier today.

"It's extremely likely the vaccine has had a positive effect", said Salama, basing his assessment on the fact that in Mbandaka there have been no confirmed cases since mid-May and a large portion of contacts have been vaccinated there. More than 98% of known contacts have been vaccinated, Salama said. "And we've learned the hard way in the past never to underestimate Ebola".

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Mr Salama, who just returned from a two-day visit to the DRC said: "There's been very strong progress in the outbreak response, particularly in relation to two of the initial three sites: Mbandaka and Bikoro".

Phase 2 of the vaccination campaign will turn the focus of the response to rural and isolated communities, "some of the most remote territories on earth" and home to "indigenous" and "marginalized" populations, he said. The current outbreak is caused by the Zaire ebolavirus, one of five separate subtypes and the one with the highest mortality rate, ranging from 60% to 90%, according to WHO.

The current outbreak - the ninth to hit the DRC since Ebola was identified in 1976 - involves the same strain of the virus that struck the West African states of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone in 2013-15, killing more than 11,300 people.

Finally, yesterday The Lancet published a letter by U.S. experts who suggested that, although costly, using rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) during the outbreak would be beneficial to identify all transmission chains of Ebola present in the DRC. Unlike 2014, when delayed recognition of Ebola led to undetected disease spread, the DRC promptly admitted it had an outbreak and called for assistance.

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