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Ebola Virus: what you should know about the current outbreak



Ebola is far from being new in the Congo, but every aspect is still considered a crisis, one that must be contained quickly.

This most recent outbreak of hemorrhagic fever the ninth in the Congo since the disease was identified in the 1970s, was labeled as an outbreak on May 8. By May 10, officials said there could be as many as 32 cases, and the number has continued to rise.

The disease can pass from infected animals to humans who come into contact with contaminated blood. The Ebola virus is not in the air. Instead, it moves from one person to another through contact with infected body fluids.

For people who get Ebola, which has an incubation period of between two and 21 days, the mortality rate is high.

The latest numbers carry

A summary of the World Health Organization issued on May 21 put the number of patients with Ebola (including confirmed, probable and suspected cases) at 58 and the number of deaths at 27 – a mortality rate of 46.5 percent.

Where did it start and how far has it spread?

The current outbreak began in Bikoro, a small community facing the lake in a rural area of ​​Equateur province.

In mid-May, the numbers increased and the concern was Assembly: Ebola cases have been confirmed in Mbandaka, an expanding city of more than one million people near the Congo River.

The river is a lifeline, essential to move people and products through a massive country with a weak infrastructure. But the role of the river in daily life also arouses alarm for some health officials, since Kinshasa, the capital of the Congo, is downstream from Mbandaka.

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Health officials do not want to see the disease in Kinshasa. If the virus is confirmed in the densely crowded city of more than 10 million people, the health teams will have to make a great effort to find each case and stop the Ebola's ability to spread.

Local and international groups are also taking measures to ensure that the virus does not cross borders. A spokesman for the WHO said that equipment has been deployed to increase surveillance along the Congo River and at other entry points.

What is being done to contain the outbreak?

Dr. Oly Ilunga, Minister of Health of Congo, said that all local experts and available resources have been deployed to deal with the Ebola outbreak. But the health system of the Congo, once considered exemplary, has had problems after having been deprived of funds and support in years of conflict.

This means that each outbreak requires local effort and substantial international support, and there are already concerns that you do not have enough money committed to meeting the need.

Congolese health workers check the temperature of passengers disembarking from a Congo Airways plane in Mbandaka. (Kenny Katombe / Reuters)

The WHO says that the strategic response plan for Ebola needs $ 56.8 million. So far, funding is well below that goal, but it has been reinforced by a commitment of $ 12 million from the new pandemic emergency funding arm of the World Bank, which intends to quickly move money to the areas that face an outbreak

WHO said that this outbreak is not an international public health emergency, but officials said a "vigorous" response on the ground was still needed.

Supplies and personnel are sent to Congo, and organizations such as Medecins Sans Frontieres have already established isolation zones in treatment centers in Bikoro and Mbandaka.

Is there a cure?

There is no known cure for Ebola, which means that doctors and nurses must do what they can to treat the symptoms. But there is a potential vaccine, and it is being tested in Congo at this time.

The Congolese government, with the help of WHO and other partners, is testing the Ebola vaccine rVSV-ZEBOV. Canadian funding and work at the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg were essential for the development of the vaccine, which is not yet authorized, but has shown promise in clinical trials.

So far, frontline health workers have been vaccinated, as well as family members and others who have had close contact with patients with Ebola.

Dr. Peter Salama, deputy director general of Emergency Preparedness and Response of the World Health Organization, told CBC As It Happens that the method of ring vaccination " it was used in a trial a couple of years ago in Guinea to show that this vaccine, used with that strategy, can be 100 percent effective. "

The pharmaceutical giant Merck has a license agreement to develop the vaccine . If it works as expected by researchers, Merck told CBC News in a statement that it "will make the vaccine available to the poorest countries in the world at the lowest possible price and non-profit."

Hand washing is a preventive measure against Ebola, a hemorrhagic fever that has a high mortality rate. (Kenny Katombe / Reuters)


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