Published: Fri, May 18, 2018
Medicine | By Melba Vasquez

World Health Organization raises risk assessment of Congo's Ebola outbreak

World Health Organization raises risk assessment of Congo's Ebola outbreak

The World Health Organisation (WHO) is convening an emergency meeting on Friday over the latest outbreak of the deadly Ebola disease in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

Currently, WHO said it considers the public health risk to be high at the national level, moderate at the regional level and low at the global level.

"The confirmed case in Mbandaka, a large urban center located on major national and worldwide river, road and domestic air routes increases the risk of spread within the Democratic Republic of the Congo and to neighboring countries", the statement said.

The outbreak, publicly declared on May 8, had previously been reported in a rural area of Equateur that lies roughly 150 kilometres (93 miles) from Mbandaka.

"At present, this event does not meet the criteria of a public health event of worldwide concern", who said.

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Senior WHO official Peter Salama said the spread to Mbandaka meant there was the potential for an "explosive increase" in cases. Fourteen cases have been confirmed with laboratory tests.

Similarly, the European Commission has released around 1.6 million euros (1.9 million dollars) to help tackle an Ebola outbreak in Congo, as well as organising flights to transport emergency staff and equipment to the affected areas. A newly confirmed case in a densely populated part of the country will complicate attempts to control the outbreak, the statement said.

The city of about one million people is a transport hub on the River Congo, prompting fears that the virus could now spread further, threatening the capital Kinshasa and surrounding countries.

WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti said Ebola spreading into an urban area is concerning and WHO along with its partners is working forward to find the voluntary contacts of confirmed Ebola cases in the Mbandaka region.

"WHO and our partners are taking decisive action to stop further spread of the virus", Ghebreyesus added.

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"This outbreak is very close to the Republic of Congo and Central African Republic".

It is the ninth time Ebola outbreak that has been recorded in the DRC, whose eastern Ebola river gave the deadly virus its name when it was discovered there in the 1970s, and the outbreak comes less than a year after one that killed eight people.

The government statement said the total number of Ebola cases is now 45, including 10 suspected cases, 21 probable cases and 14 confirmed cases. On average, about 50% of people who become ill with Ebola die.

Ebola can be introduced into the human population through contact with the blood, organs or other bodily fluids of infected animals.

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