The World Health Organization (WHO) announces the discovery of a first case of Ebola in urban areas in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), while cases have been identified so far in a single rural area. A vaccine developed in Canada has just been sent to the DRC.
“A new case […] has been confirmed in Wangata, one of three sanitary zones in Mbandaka, a town of nearly 1.2 million people in Equateur province in north-west the DRC, “said a statement in WHO, which expressed concern.
Last Friday, the director of the WHO’s Emergency Management Program, Peter Salama, warned that “if we see a city of this size infected with Ebola, we will have a major urban epidemic”.
On May 8, DRC authorities declared an Ebola outbreak in the north-west near Congo-Brazzaville.
WHO reported 44 cases, 3 confirmed, 20 probable and 21 suspected.
So far, all confirmed Ebola cases have been reported in a very hard-to-reach rural area in the Bikoro region, northeast of Kinshasa, on the border with Congo-Brazzaville.
The discovery of a first confirmed case of Ebola in urban areas “is a worrying development, but we now have better tools than ever to fight Ebola,” said WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, quoted in the press release.
“WHO and our partners are taking decisive action to stop the spread of the virus,” he added.
WHO reports that it is deploying some 30 experts to carry out surveillance activities in Mbandaka, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and other partners.
“The arrival of Ebola in an urban area is very worrying and WHO and its partners are working together to rapidly intensify the search for all contacts of the confirmed case in the Mbandaka area,” said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, Director. Regional Office for Africa.
Canadian experimental vaccine at the heart of the fight
Ebola haemorrhagic fever is a virus that spreads through physical contact through infected body fluids.
It circulates among fruit-eating bats, considered to be the natural host of Ebola, but they do not develop the disease.
Other mammals such as great apes, antelopes or porcupines can carry it and transmit it to humans.
The virus, which causes fever, vomiting, muscle and joint pain, headaches and intense diarrhea, is feared because of its very high fatality rate. It kills on average half of the people it reaches, according to WHO.
There is currently no vaccine or marketed treatment for Ebola, but several leads are being tested.
The WHO has just sent a batch of 5400 doses of an experimental vaccine, rVSV-ZEBOV, developed by the Public Health Agency of Canada to the DRC, which has proved very effective in a study conducted by WHO in Guinea in 2015.
In the DRC, the last epidemic dates back to 2017. Quickly circumscribed, it had officially killed four people.
Tina Galo is a reporter for Clear Publicist. After graduating from college, Tim got an internship at NPR and worked as a reporter and sound engineer. Tim has also worked as a reporter for VICE. Tim covers entertainment and community events for Clear Publicist.