Ebola virus in DRC has 'potential to expand' World Health Organization reports

Ebola virus in DRC has 'potential to expand' World Health Organization reports

The report came as the World Health Organization warned that the fight to stop Democratic Republic of Congo's ninth confirmed outbreak of the hemorrhagic fever had reached a critical point.

Merck donated thousands of doses to World Health Organization and anticipates filing for licensure and approval by regulatory agencies next year, said Pam Eisele, a company spokeswoman.

Ebola responders in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are revealing more about local practices and community mistrust, which in some instances are hampering the actions needed to curb the spread of the disease in the country's outbreak hot spots. There have been 58 confirmed, probable and suspected cases of Ebola - and 27 deaths - as of Tuesday.

Three experts from the UK Public Health Rapid Support Team - two epidemiologists and a data scientist - are also being deployed to the DRC to assist UK aid partners in tracking the spread of the disease so that it can be tackled quickly and effectively.

Of the confirmed Ebola cases, 14 are in Iboko, 10 are in Bikoro where the outbreak began and four are in the Wangata area of Mbandaka.

Health officials are particularly concerned by the disease's presence in Mbandaka, a crowded trading hub upstream from the capital Kinshasa, a city of 10 million people. In previous Ebola outbreaks, patients have also left the hospital despite doctors urging them not to.

Ebola is highly contagious and spreads through contact with the bodily fluids of its victims, often during burial rites.

The virus enters the body through broken skin or mucous membranes in the eyes, nose or mouth, and can also spread through sexual contact. Said Berkley: "So the idea that there is only a subset of people who are going to get it is complicated".

The escapes unfortunately are not surprising, said Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease physician with Toronto's University Health Network who treats tropical diseases.

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Lucey said that "there are quite a few experimental vaccines, both from the West and from China and from Russian Federation", yet only one investigational Ebola vaccine is being used in the current outbreak - recombinant vesicular stomatitis virus-Zaire Ebola virus (or rVSV-ZEBOV), made by pharmaceutical giant Merck.

The WHO said vaccine manufacturer Merck has provided it with 8,640 doses of the vaccine and an additional 8,000 doses are expected to be available in the coming days. Among the almost 6,000 people who received the vaccine at that time, no Ebola cases were recorded 10 days or more after vaccination.

"It is really the detective work of epidemiology that will make or break the response to this outbreak", he said.

"The commitment and sacrifice of those on the front line is the most important element of this outbreak", he said.

A major challenge will be keeping the vaccines cold in this vast, impoverished, tropical country where infrastructure is poor.

Doctors Without Borders (MSF), which was one of WHO's harshest critics over the West Africa outbreak, agreed that the response this time was far better. The Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic, which have land and river borders with the affected areas, are at particular risk as there is a constant movement of people between the countries.

WHO Regional Director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti, said WHO is helping these countries scale up preparedness so they can detect, investigate, and manage the disease. Meanwhile, millions of dollars from the Congolese government and worldwide aid have been allocated to combat the spread of the deadly disease, including up to $8 million from the U.S. Agency for global Development.

UNICEF spokesman, Christophe Boulierac said schools are crucial for minimizing the risk of transmission among children.

"The next few weeks will really tell if this outbreak is going to expand to urban areas or if we're going to be able to keep it under control", WHO's emergency response chief, Peter Salama, said at the United Nations body's annual assembly.

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