19 dead in Ebola outbreak in DRC

Ebola virus virion. Created by CDC microbiologist Cynthia Goldsmith, this colorized transmission electron micrograph (TEM) revealed some of the ultrastructural morphology displayed by an Ebola virus virion.
Ebola virus virion. Created by CDC microbiologist Cynthia Goldsmith, this colorized transmission electron micrograph (TEM) revealed some of the ultrastructural morphology displayed by an Ebola virus virion.
Image: Cynthia Goldsmith

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) reported 39 suspected, probable or confirmed cases of Ebola between April 4 and May 13, including 19 deaths, the World Health Organisation said yesterday.

The head of the WHO said on Sunday there had been another reported case of Ebola in the DRC and that an experimental vaccine to fight the disease was expected to become available in the country this week.

Doctor Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, on a two-visit to DRC, said the suspected new case was in Bikoro, at the centre of the latest Ebola outbreak in the country’s northwest, where 18 people have died so far.

It brings to 35 the number of reported cases, including two confirmed, according to the WHO tally.

The WHO is planning to begin a vaccination campaign in the area, near the border with the Republic of Congo, using an available stockpile of an experimental vaccine.

“The vaccines are going to arrive on Wednesday or Thursday. We have enough of them,” Ghebreyesus said, without specifying the number of doses.

After meeting DRC President Joseph Kabila in Kinshasa, the WHO chief praised the government’s very strong leadership in responding to the health crisis and its good coordination with partners like Unicef and Doctors without Borders.

On Friday the UN health agency had announced that it was preparing for all scenarios, including the worst-case scenario, in the latest Ebola outbreak in DRC.

Tedros said he hoped for a better result in this ninth Ebola outbreak in the vast central African country since 1976, when the deadly viral disease was first identified by a Belgian-led team.

Ebola is one of the world’s most notorious diseases, being both highly infectious and extremely lethal.

The worst Ebola outbreak yet 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 nearly 29 000 registered cases.

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