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Ebola in DRC: WHO rules out risk of regional and international spread

Ebola in DRC: WHO rules out risk of regional and international spread
Dr. Jean-Jacques Muyembe Tamfun is inoculated with a vaccine against the Ebola...   -  
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PAMELA TULIZO/AFP or licensors

Democratic Republic Of Congo

A new outbreak of the Ebola virus in the Democratic Republic of Congo has raised concerns about the risk of regional and international transmission of the virus.

The resurgence of the virus in this town in Mbandaka, northwestern DRC has left two people dead since 21 April.

As of 27 April, "267 contacts have been identified", according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), which considers it "difficult to assess the extent of the epidemic" at this stage.

"The risk of regional and international spread of this epidemic cannot be ruled out as the town of Mbandaka borders the Congo River and has river and land connections with the capital Kinshasa, the Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic and Angola," the WHO said in a statement on Thursday.

In addition, the WHO adds, Mbandaka has air links with the province of South Ubangi, which borders the Central African Republic and the Republic of Congo, and with Kinshasa.

the WHO however describes the current risk as "moderate" at the regional level and "low" at the international level.

The UN agency, therefore, does not recommend any restrictions on travel and trade in the DRC.

The risk of spread in the DRC is considered "high" due to the presence of animal reservoirs and intermediate hosts, the high frequency of Ebola outbreaks in the country, environmental factors and a weakened health system due to ongoing outbreaks of cholera, measles and Covid-19, among others.

This is the 14th Ebola outbreak in the DRC since 1976.

Although Mbandaka has experienced two EVD outbreaks in 2020 and 2018, WHO points out that some of the improvements made to the health system during the previous outbreaks have not been sustained.

"There is a need to support health professionals in the province to conduct an effective response. In addition, logistical support is needed to reactivate the health infrastructure put in place during previous outbreaks," the WHO said.

According to the organisation, 200 doses of vaccines have been shipped to Mbandaka. Vaccination started on 27 April. More doses will be shipped as needed.

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