Don't be afraid of Ebola: aggressive measures against aggressive viruses
It was only a week after the all-clear when the government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) announced on August 1, 2018 that preliminary laboratory results indicate another Ebola outbreak - this time in the province of North Kivu. Shortly before, the health minister had declared the outbreak in the Equateur province in the far west of the country defeated. The DRK Ministry of Health has now announced the launch of Ebola vaccinations for high-risk populations in North Kivu.
As the DRK Ministry of Health informed the World Health Organization (WHO), 44 cases of illness have already been reported. In at least 17 cases, the Ebola virus was detected by laboratory samples from North Kivu. The province of North Kivu is about 2500 km from the province of Equateur, where the last eruption recently took place. "Ebola is a constant threat in the Democratic Republic of the Congo," reports Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director general, released a press release on the new outbreak.
Battle won - but the war is not over yet
"In close cooperation with the Ministry of Health and its partners, we will fight the virus this time again," said the Director General. In particular, he praised the transparency of the DRK's Ministry of Health towards the WHO and the country's strong responsiveness.
Emergency services and equipment still on site
"We have had personnel and equipment ready since the last Ebola outbreak," explains Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. This would give emergency services a head start compared to the last outbreak. At the last eruption, the danger zone was in an area that is very difficult to access. This time, WHO faces new problems: "The new outbreak is in the middle of an active conflict zone," explains Dr. Peter Salama, WHO's Deputy Director General for Emergency Preparedness and Response. Over a million refugees live there, Salama continues.
Risk of spreading
Further spread risks are the lively trade activities with the neighboring countries Rwanda and Uganda, on whose borders a large number of people move. WHO also works with neighboring countries to ensure that health authorities are alerted and ready to respond to an outbreak.
Big vaccination campaign starts
The Ministry of Health of the Democratic Republic of the Congo announced on August 8, 2018 that it will launch Ebola vaccinations for high-risk populations in the province of North Kivu. The provincial health minister and coordinator of the expanded immunization program were the first to be vaccinated. They were followed by health workers who were in direct contact with people who had confirmed Ebola cases.
Vaccine as an important weapon against Ebola
Around 3,200 doses of the Ebola vaccine are currently available in the country. Although the approval process has not yet been completed, additional doses have already been requested. "Vaccines are an important tool in the fight against Ebola," reports the Health Minister of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Dr. Oly Ilunga, in a WHO press release on the vaccination campaign.
Fight fire with fire
"Ebola is aggressive, we have to react more aggressively," said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. The DR Congo has again shown a strong leadership role in the outbreak. It is an extremely important step to start vaccinations as soon as possible.
WHO provides logistical support
The WHO supports the vaccination campaign especially in logistics. For example, the organization secures the cold chain of the vaccine, sends the necessary supplies, negotiates protocols with the manufacturer and the national authorities, and deploys vaccination specialists in the area of application.
What are the health risks from Ebola?
Ebola is a dangerous infectious disease that causes internal bleeding and is often fatal. Even contact with small amounts of body fluid is enough to spread the virus. After an infection, flu-like symptoms such as body aches, headaches, sore throats and high fever first appear. In the further course of the disease, complaints such as massive diarrhea, nausea and vomiting are added. In the high phase of the disease, there are the typical Ebola symptoms, the internal bleeding, which is triggered by the so-called hemorrhagic fever. Furthermore, liver and kidney dysfunction with edema, shock and circulatory collapse, cramps and paralysis can occur. When bleeding occurs in the gastrointestinal tract, spleen, and lungs, the disease often ends in death. (vb)