World Health Organization says Congo faces "very high" risk from Ebola outbreak

World Health Organization says Congo faces

Botswana has issued a travel advisory informing its citizens not to travel to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) following confirmation of 17 Ebola virus-related deaths and 21 suspected cases in that country last week. Ebola is a highly infectious disease spread through contact with even small amounts of bodily fluid of an infected person.

The reassessment came after the first confirmed case in Mbandaka, a city of around 1.5 million on the banks of the Congo River in the northwest of the country.

The emergency meeting is to "consider the global risks" of the deadly Ebola virus disease, which has now moved to an urban area of DRC. An initial €1.5 million will provide logistics support to the World Health Organization (WHO), and a further €130,000 offered to the International Federation of the Red Cross for life-saving interventions by the Congolese Red Cross.

A panel will decide on Friday whether to declare a "public health emergency of worldwide concern", which would trigger a larger response. "Urban Ebola can result in an exponential increase in cases in a way that rural Ebola struggles to do".

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.

The agency said it was deploying around 30 experts to Mbandaka "to conduct surveillance in the city".




The Health Ministry also informed that the vaccine which is still not licensed but proved effective during limited trials in West Africa will go in use from the weekend.

"This puts a whole different lens on this outbreak and gives us increased urgency to move very quickly into Mbandaka to stop this new first sign of transmission", he said. The virus is initially transmitted to people from wild animals, including bats and monkeys.

He said the disease could have been taken there by people who attended the funeral of an Ebola victim in Bikoro, south of Mbandaka, before travelling to the city.

With the poor infrastructure and electricity supply in Congo, the only challenge that remains with the vaccine is that it has to store it in a cold temperature.

Many of these people were in remote areas, Mr Salama said.

"The European Commission has announced a package of urgent humanitarian aid to help contain an outbreak of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo".

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