Ebola threatens to jump the borders of the Congo | Society

Ebola threatens to jump the borders of the Congo | Society

The Ebola epidemic declared in the northeast of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) on August 1 continues its unstoppable advance and threatens to spread to neighboring countries. The World Health Organization (WHO) has already begun last year to vaccinate some 4,200 health professionals in Uganda and South Sudan, and now Rwandans join, because some of the people who have been in contact with the sick are from Goma. , border town with this last country. The outbreak, the worst in the history of the DRC, has already reached the figure of 721 cases, of which 446 people died.

The concern about a possible expansion of the Ebola epidemic to neighboring countries is growing. On the one hand, the outbreak is still out of control with special intensity in Butembo, the main affected city, and in the town of Katwa, already inside the Virunga National Park, where the latest confirmed cases come from. On the other hand, the first patients have appeared in Kayina's health area, on the road that goes to Goma, as well as the first contacts in this city, that is, people who have been close to confirmed cases during the contagion phase of the illness. Goma is the capital of the province of North Kivu and is on the border with Rwanda.

The two main problems that the authorities face to control this outbreak are the resistance of the population to declare the new cases due to rumors and false news and the inaccessibility of large areas for health services due to the presence of numerous rebel groups.

To combat the false news about the disease, the Congolese Ministry of Health is using dozens of the 253 patients who have been cured in awareness campaigns as well as in caring for the sick, whom they try to encourage through their own example. "The survivors are a key point to build trust in the community," Jamie LeSueur, the head of operations for the response to this outbreak of the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, told Reuters.

In Uganda, the Government and WHO began a vaccination program for front-line health professionals in the five districts bordering the DRC in November. A total of 2,100 doses of the rVSV-Ebola vaccine have been distributed, which has been provided to some 65,000 people in the Congo, both to doctors and nurses and to direct contacts of confirmed cases. The constant movements of population between both countries made it advisable to take this preventive measure. The medication is still in the experimental phase. It was developed to combat the West African outbreak of 2014-2015, but the extinction of the disease in the region prevented it from being tested, so its current use also serves to test its effectiveness in a real case, reports Emilio de Benito.

Similarly, on December 19 began in Juba, the capital of South Sudan, a vaccination campaign with a total of 2,160 doses distributed among health personnel accompanied by a first phase of training. The Congo province of Ituri, where there have also been cases, shares a border with this country. This country, plus Rwanda and Uganda, are on high alert for the "high risk" that Ebola will penetrate their territories, according to the WHO.

The spokesperson of this body in Geneva, Fadela Chaib, highlighted this week the decrease of cases in Beni, epicenter of the epidemic, but admitted that infections are coming from hidden transmission chains in other areas as well as community deaths of people not included in the tracking lists. "The steps we took in Beni had an impact, but unfortunately we see how cases appear in other areas," he said.

The Congolese Health Minister, Oly Ilunga Kalenga, recently described this epidemic as "the most complex in the world" and added that "without the extensive experience of our experts and without the availability of medicines, we would have arrived at a scenario such as that of the epidemic. West Africa "that took place between 2014 and 2016 and caused more than 11,000 deaths, the worst in all of history. Ilunga emphasized the intense mobility of the populations in the affected areas and the presence in them of dozens of armed groups.


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