WHO today decides whether to declare an international emergency
The government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is currently fighting the spread of Ebola viruses with the help of the World Health Organization (WHO) and other partners. More than 40 suspected cases have recently been reported in the region, and three cases have already been confirmed in the laboratory. The third confirmed case caused a sensation. While the first cases were more remote, the youngest came from Mbandaka, the capital of the Équateur province in the northwest of the country. With around 1.2 million inhabitants, Mbandaka is one of the largest cities in the DR Congo.
Laboratory tests carried out by the “Institut National de Recherche Biomédicale” (INRB) unequivocally determined that it was the dangerous Ebola virus. The first reported cases were reported from the Bikoro health zone, which is around 150 kilometers from the capital. If the virus spreads in the city, it could have catastrophic consequences. To make matters worse, the area around Bikoro, where the first health facilities were established, is difficult to access and many roads are impassable due to the current rainy season.
The WHO Director General remains optimistic
"This is a worrying development, but we now have better tools than ever to fight Ebola," reports Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director General, in a press release on the current situation. WHO and its partners would take decisive action to stop the virus from spreading further.
30 experts monitor the city
WHO employs around 30 surveillance experts in the capital and works with the Ministry of Health and other partners. The focus is on preventing further cases, treating acute illnesses and reporting new cases.
A worrying development
"The arrival of Ebola in an urban area is very worrying," explains Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. The search for all contacts of the confirmed case in the Mbandaka area must be pushed forward quickly. Ebola patients are to be treated in special isolation departments and further spread is to be contained. As of May 15, 2018, the WHO reported 44 suspected cases, of which 20 are likely, 21 suspected and three laboratory-confirmed.
The WHO will hold an emergency meeting today (May 18, 2018) to discuss and assess the risk of further spread. The panel will decide whether to declare an emergency of international importance. The metropolis of Mbandaka is considered a traffic hub on the Congo, which fears that the virus could spread from here to all surrounding regions and countries.
Compare with previous outbreaks
"The potential for an explosive increase in the number of cases is now there," warns Peter Salama, deputy director general of the WHO for emergency measures to "BBC News". There is a risk that the virus will spread to the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Kinshasa; 11 million inhabitants) as well as to the neighboring states of Congo-Brazzaville and the Central African Republic. The fatal Ebola outbreak in West Africa from 2014 to 2016 showed that the virus only developed critically when it spread to the capital cities of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. At that time, 11,000 people died.
Ebola is a contagious disease that causes internal bleeding and is often fatal. The virus spreads quickly through contact with small amounts of body fluid. Ebola symptoms are often initially manifested by flu-like symptoms such as body aches, headaches, sore throats and high fever. In the further course, those affected suffer from massive diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. In addition, there are the typical internal bleeding, which is triggered by the so-called hemorrhagic fever. In addition, liver and kidney dysfunction with edema, shock and circulatory collapse, cramps and paralysis may occur. Bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract, spleen and lungs can lead to death. (vb)