1 new Ebola death confirmed in Congo, bringing total to 12

Cristina Cross
May 28, 2018

"Between Sunday May 20 and Tuesday May 22, three patients voluntarily left the isolation unit at Wangata hospital" in Mbandaka, Henry Gray, the agency's emergency intervention coordinator in that city, said in a statement.

Another patient left on Saturday, but was found alive the same day and is under observation, he said.

"This is a hospital".

"The next few weeks will really tell if this outbreak is going to expand to urban areas or if we are going to be able to keep it under control", he added.

"We're on the epidemiological knife edge of this response", WHO's head of emergency response, Chief Peter Salama told ministers and diplomats at United Nations body's annual assembly.

A worker from the World Health Organization administers Ebola vaccination during the launch of an experimental vaccine in Mbandaka, north-western Democratic Republic of the Congo, May 21, 2018.

Downstream from Mbandaka is the country's capital, Kinshasa, which is home to roughly 10 million people.

He said that, over the next 5 days, about 100 people will be vaccinated, including 70 health workers.

Situated along the Congo River, Mbandaka is a densely populated transit hub at the crossroads of Equateur province, the health ministry said, raising fears that the Ebola virus will be easily passed on.

The UN health agency is eager to show that it has learned hard-won lessons on how to deal with Ebola since the worst-ever outbreak of the virus, which killed more than 11,300 people in three West African countries from 2013-2015.

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"UK disease experts will this weekend be setting off to support the country's Ministry of Health, the World Health Organisation and our other partners to help stop this deadly disease".

WHO and the governments are working to roll out "pre-position" supplies that might be needed if the virus spreads, WHO Africa director Matshidiso Moeti told a World Health Assembly session. There are five subtypes of Ebola virus, four of which can be transmitted from wild animals to people, who can then spread the disease person-to-person. Excellent communication between the clinical teams treating patients, public health teams, patients and communities around what's happening is key. Also, the report said some community members are turning to churches and pastors for help rather than medical clinics.

"But it still can be quite a frightening situation and unfortunately it's not uncommon for people to run away".

Salama noted that, in eight Ebola outbreaks in Congo, two patterns have emerged: The virus affected either isolated rural areas only or towns only.

"Right now, we're thinking the risk of importation of Ebola to the United States is very low", Skinner said.

"All efforts were made by staff to convince the patients, as well as their families, to not leave the center", but "Ebola treatment centers are not prisons", the ministry said.

"We haven't even done the Phase 1 yet", Fauci told Reuters, but added that he was "happy to do it", as long at the trial is done in collaboration with WHO.

That number could dramatically increase if the disease were to spread widely in a major city.

When Ebola hit West Africa in 2014, some of the obstacles that impeded the medical response included lack of trust among communities dealing with outbreaks and religious practices - such as washing the body of the dead - that spread the disease, which is contagious through bodily fluids.

Although the vaccine, provided by the USA pharmaceutical company Merck, is still in the test stages, it proved effective in the last Ebola outbreak in the West African nations of Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia that resulted in the deaths of more than 11,000 people.

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