Health workers wear protective equipment as they prepare to care for patients with suspected Ebola on Saturday at Bikoro hospital, the epicenter of the Ebola outbreak in the Congo. (Mark Naftalin / AFP / UNICEF)
The United States plans to provide several million dollars to support the global response to the growing outbreak of Ebola in the Congo, officials said Friday. Details are being finalized, and an announcement is expected early next week.
The outbreak, the most serious since the West African epidemic in 2014 that killed more than 11,000 people, still does not meet the criteria to be declared an international public health emergency, the World Health Organization said. Friday. But the WHO, in a statement, said that "a vigorous response is needed" from the international community to avoid a sharp escalation of the outbreak.
The discovery this week of at least one case in a densely populated port city in the east The Congo River bank has expressed concern about the possibility of a rapid spread of the disease, which had previously been confined to a remote area in the rainforest of the Equateur province in the Congo. To date, there have been 45 cases, and 25 of those people have died. More than 530 people may have been in contact with infected people and are being monitored, and may be candidates for the first round of an experimental vaccine.
WHO officials estimate that outbreak control efforts will cost $ 26 million over the next three months. So far, WHO has received commitments of around $ 9 million.
"So we have about 17 million dollars," said Peter Salama, the chief WHO official in charge of the epidemic response, during a press conference in Geneva on Friday. That may sound like a considerable amount, he said, but it does not compare to the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, which costs between $ 3 billion and $ 4 billion. "So this is a relatively small investment to end a small outbreak quickly, for a large gain in lives saved, but also in saved dollars," he said.
Some world health experts have privately expressed concern that the US response would be minimized given President Trump's disparaging and isolationist comments on Ebola during the 2014 epidemic. He complained that two sick American health workers were transferred by plane to the United States for treatment and they said they should not enter the country.
But the response from the USA UU So far it seems to be appropriate for this outbreak, according to experts.  "I see no evidence that the president's previous comments on Ebola had an impact on the US response," said a global health expert, who spoke on condition of anonymity to speak with frankness.
Thomas Inglesby, director of the Johns Hopkins Health Safety Center said: "My feeling is that while they have not been too public with what they are doing yet, they are actually doing a lot and will send equipment to the field according to the DRC and WHO requests. "
On Friday, the US Agency. UU For International Development he said he had provided an initial $ 1 million to the WHO to fight the outbreak. It is expected that several million additional dollars will be announced next week to support the effort. According to these officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they are working on the details.
These funds would be separated from the $ 252 million in remaining unused funds from the US reaction. UU to the 2014 Ebola epidemic that the administration wants Congress to cut.
USAID is also shipping 2,000 kits of personal protective equipment, laboratory materials for diagnostic tests and other technical support. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has already mobilized its country office in the Congo, which includes several experts with extensive experience in handling the West African epidemic in 2014. The CDC has also brought together a team of a dozen experts planning to deploy in the Congo in a matter of days. His experience includes infection control, contact tracking and emergency operations management.
Pierre Rollin, one of the agency's top Ebola experts, said in an interview this week that several CDC teams are preparing to deploy if necessary, with each change in the Congo expected to last four to six weeks.
"We have stepped up our support for the response," Anne Schuchat, CDC's principal deputy director, said in an interview on Friday. Because WHO and Congolese officials have responded quickly so far, the CDC has not yet had to send large teams. But the next few days will be critical, he said, to prevent the virus from spreading to another country, and for field staff in outbreak areas to keep up with contact tracing. But unlike the West African epidemic, he said, "this is not thousands of new cases, which is what we were dealing with in the capitals [West African]."
The National Security Council, which last week lost its top official responsible for leading the US response to pandemics and splitting the global health safety team it oversaw, is managing the overall response in coordination with CDC and USAID said a spokesperson.
Disease "superspreaders" accounted for almost two thirds of Ebola cases in the West African epidemic, according to a study
How Ebola got out of control
The sinister mathematics of the Ebola epidemic
The lessons of Ebola, painfully learned at great cost in dollars and human lives