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DRC Ebola - still no closer to elimination

Tuesday July 16th, 2019

The Democratic Republic of Congo has reported a new outbreak of Ebola in the city of Goma - while two Ebola responders have been murdered in their home, the director-general of the World Health Organisation (WHO) reported yesterday.

Director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told the High-Level Event on Response and Preparedness for the Ebola Outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo that a pastor was confirmed as having the disease.

“Although this is a very concerning development, it’s one that we and the government have expected and prepared for,” he said.

He also reported that two Ebola responders were murdered in their home in Beni.

“Both of these events encapsulate the challenges we continue to face on a daily basis in DRC,” he said. “Just when we start to get control of the virus in one area, it appears in another. And violence and insecurity continue to undermine the response. We are dealing with one of the world’s most dangerous viruses in one of the world’s most dangerous areas.”

Since January, WHO has recorded 198 attacks on health facilities and health workers, killing seven people, including the two latest deaths, and, in April, WHO epidemiologist Dr Richard Mouzoko.

He warned that every attack sets WHO back in its attempt to eliminate the disease.

“Every attack makes it more difficult to trace contacts, vaccinate and perform safe burials. Every attack gives Ebola an opportunity to spread. Ebola gets a free ride in each and every attack,” he warned.

“On top of that, community mistrust, political instability and the spread of myths and misinformation have been significant barriers.”

Dr Josie Golding, epidemics lead at Wellcome, warned that there is no sign of Ebola being eliminated in DRC - and that the response in the country is overstretched and underfunded.

“There is a grave risk of a major increase in numbers or spread to new locations – as we’ve heard today in Goma. There is also always the potential another Ebola outbreak will begin elsewhere,” she said.

She added that it is also concerning that supplies of the Merck vaccine will run out before this epidemic ends and called for a second vaccine, developed by Johnson & Johnson, to be used, despite it being rejected for use.

“We regret the recent announcement against the use of the J&J vaccine and ask for this to be reconsidered. The lives of healthcare workers and the people in North Kivu, across DRC and the region depend on it,” she said.

“We need support at the highest political levels, including at the UN and G20. Countries should not wait for Ebola to spread across borders or appear on their doorstep before acting.”

Tags: Africa | Flu & Viruses | Pharmaceuticals

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