Three patients with Ebola escape from Congo hospital, doctors compete to control the outbreak



MBANDAKA, Democratic Republic of the Congo (Reuters) – Three patients infected with the deadly Ebola virus emerged from an isolation ward at a hospital in the Congolese town of Mbandaka, an aid group said, as doctors ran to stop the spread of the disease in the busy river port.

Workers of the World Health Organization (WHO) prepare a vaccination center during the launch of a campaign to combat an Ebola outbreak in the port city of Mbandaka, Democratic Republic of the Congo on May 21, 2018 REUTERS / Kenny Katombe

"Two patients left the hospital," said HenryGrayjefethemissionMedecinsSansFrontieres (MSF) inthecitizensofthiscall

The representative of the World Health Organization (WHO) in the Congo, Yokouide Allarangar, said that one was found dead and another was sent back to the hospital and died soon after.

Allarangar, speaking with reporters in the capital Kinshasa, said that the two patients had left the hospital with the help of family members before heading to a "place of prayer."

Ministry of Health sources, who asked not to be identified, said that two police officers had been deployed to help track them.

Another patient left on Saturday, but was found alive on the same day and is under observation, he said.

"This is a hospital, it's not a prison, we can not block everything," he said.

WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said health workers had redoubled efforts to track contacts with patients. Health workers have drawn up a list of 628 people who have had contact with known cases that will need to be vaccinated.

"It's unfortunate but not unexpected," he said. "It is normal for people to want loved ones to be at home during what could be the last moments of life."

The cases represent a setback for costly efforts to contain the virus, including the use of experimental vaccines, and efforts to contain its spread may be hampered by old customs or skepticism about the threat it poses.

The report came when another WHO official warned that the fight to stop the confirmed ninth outbreak of hemorrhagic fever in the Democratic Republic of the Congo had reached a critical point.

"The next few weeks will really indicate if this outbreak is going to expand to urban areas or if we are going to be able to keep it under control," said WHO emergency response chief Peter Salama at the organization's annual meeting. from the ONU. .

"We are on the epidemiological edge of this response."

KINSHASA FEARS

Health officials are particularly concerned about the presence of the disease in Mbandaka, a crowded shopping mall upstream of Kinshasa, a city of 10 million people. The river runs along the border with the Republic of the Congo.

Allarangar said that health officials received an alert on Wednesday from the main hospital in Kinshasa about a patient and sent a team to investigate. However, he said that it was not yet considered an alleged case of Ebola and that two or three of those alerts turned out to be false alarms.

It is believed that the outbreak, which was first seen near the city of Bikoro, about 100 km (60 miles) south of the city, killed at least 27 people so far.

The WHO said that health workers were following up on three separate transmission chains for cases in the Wangata neighborhood of Mbandaka, one linked to a funeral, one to a church and the other to a rural health center.

"It really is the detective work of epidemiology that will make or break the response to this outbreak," said Salama.

The disease was first discovered in the Congo in the 1970s. It is spread through direct contact with bodily fluids of an infected person, who suffers severe episodes of vomiting and diarrhea.

More than 11,300 people died in an Ebola outbreak in West African countries, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone between 2013 and 2016.

Additional reporting by Tom Miles in Geneva and Aaron Ross in Dakar; Written by Joe Bavier and Aaron Ross; Edited by Edward McAllister and Janet Lawrence

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