World Health Organization preparing for the worst in DR Congo Ebola outbreak


Congo's health minister on Thursday announced a suspected death in a new outbreak of the virus.

World Health Organization immediately jumped into action once the outbreak was declared, he said, and was now in "full surge capacity".

The worst-ever Ebola outbreak started in December 2013 in southern Guinea before spreading to two neighbouring west African countries, Liberia and Sierra Leone, killing more than 11,300 people out of almost 29,000 registered cases. Unless treated properly, those infected with the virus could die in a few weeks.

Salama also said there was no evidence of a link between the outbreak and eight deaths that occurred in January and February in the same area, which had not been confirmed as Ebola.

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He said the possibility of worldwide spread of the disease was still considered "low", but that the situation was constantly being evaluated. That outbreak, the worst in history, killed approximately 11,310 people. As such, the common procedure is to isolate any person who shows any of the symptoms to avoid further contamination. "(The) Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) will also consider sending some team to DRC as part of building capacity for managing the outbreak", he added.

In a statement, Congo's Health Minister, Oly Ilunga, said: "One of the defining features of this epidemic is the fact that three health professionals have been affected". But Formenty noted that during an Ebola outbreak in the country a year ago, officials agreed to use the vaccine. Fatality rates have varied from 25% to 90% in past outbreaks, with an average fatality rate around 50%.

The Ebola virus was first identified in the 1970s in DR Congo in a village near the Ebola River, which gave a name to the disease.

Ebola occasionally jumps to humans from animals, including bats and monkeys.

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Ebola symptoms can include a very high temperature, a headache, or a sore throat.

Deputy Director-General of Emergency Preparedness and Response Peter Salama is reported by Reuters to have said that his outfit is "preparing for the worst-case scenario". There are now no clinical vaccine candidates available that protect against all four human-pathogenic Ebola viruses.

He further stressed the setting up of emergency surveillance operation centers to be chaired by Dr. Babasanya, who led the efforts in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea during the outbreak in 2014. The WHO is planning to approve deployment of that experimental vaccine soon, but it's not yet clear how effective it will be.

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