(2 Jun 2018) More than 680 people have received Ebola vaccinations in the three areas of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where dozens of cases of the deadly virus have been confirmed, the country’s health ministry has said.
Health experts are pushing to find contacts of those infected, having already located more than 1,000.
As of Friday evening (GMT), there have been 37 confirmed Ebola cases in the DRC, including 12 deaths. There are another 13 probable cases, according to the country’s health ministry.
Officials from the ministry could be seen on Friday in Mbandaka.
The city of 1.2 million people is the provincial capital of northwest Equateur province.
The officials were registering a young girl, whose parents died from the virus. She is now under UNICEF’s care.
Further away, a young boy is sitting in a chair with a high fever. He is suspected of having been infected with the virus and has been placed in quarantine as a precaution.
While nearly 500 people have been vaccinated in Mbandaka since 21 May, ignorance about the virus’ existence is still a threat.
“Most people here in Mbandaka and maybe in Bikoro and elsewhere are still ignorant. They have not yet understood that Ebola really exists,” Dr. Hiller Manzimbo, a hospital director, told The Associated Press.
Manzimbo was referring, among others, to Irene Mbwo, the widow of an Ebola victim, who does not recognise that her husband died from the virus and has refused the vaccine herself.
“They just told me that he died of Ebola, but they did not publish his blood results,” she told The Associated Press. “But how can they claim that he died of Ebola, when they say that those who came in contact with him will see symptoms of infection within three days, and I told them at the hospital today that I have been clean for 21 days?” she insisted.
In an Ebola plan released this week by the World Health Organisation (WHO), the UN’s health agency predicted there could be up to 300 cases in the coming months, noting there could be three times as many contacts to chase if the virus spreads in urban, as opposed to rural, areas.
Although WHO officials said “more than half” of newly confirmed Ebola cases had been previously identified, a substantial portion of cases are showing up that were not being monitored, meaning the disease is in some cases spreading unnoticed.
The WHO also said officials would likely need more triage, isolation and treatment centres, possibly including one in the capital, Kinshasa. It said additional aircraft, helicopters and boats were needed to manage the challenging logistics of the outbreak and that it might ultimately cost 56 million US dollars to contain Ebola.
The UN health agency said that based on an initial assessment of Bikoro, “there is an approximate movement of over 1,000 people per day by river, road and air at major points of entry.” It recommended that neighbouring countries strengthen their capacity to identify imported cases of Ebola, including by implementing exit screening.
The WHO said the risk of spread to elsewhere in Africa was high but that the risk of global transmission was low. It added that even though experts had concluded the outbreak conditions do not currently merit being declared a global emergency, the situation would be re-evaluated if the epidemic spikes significantly or if there is international spread.
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