13 May 2017

Congo-Kinshasa: 'Don't Panic,' TV Viewers Warned During Ebola Outbreak

Photo: Morgana Wingard/USAid
(file photo).

Citizens of the Democratic Republic of Congo have been urged not to panic amid the first Ebola outbreak since the West Africa crisis. The country is being hit by its eighth Ebola outbreak.

DRC Health Minister Oly Ilunga used a national television address on Saturday to urge the population "not to panic" following a new Ebola outbreak.

The country "has taken all necessary measures to respond quickly and efficiently to this new outbreak," Ilunga said.

Three people have died of the virus in the DRC since April 22, with the country's eighth outbreak affecting an equatorial forest region in Bas-Uele province, bordering Central African Republic.

The World Health Organization said Saturday the outbreak was limited to a remote area and did not warrant travel or trade restrictions.

"Investigations are ongoing to assess the full extent of the outbreak and therefore high vigilance still needs to be maintained," the UN organization said.

The WHO said it is sending a team of experts to the area and that health workers would be supplied with protective equipment. The Alliance For International Medical Action said in a statement one of its teams was on its way to the area of Likati with protective gear and medicine to treat "suspected and confirmed cases."

Taxi driver ferrying patient dies

"The first case and possibly the index case, a 39-year-old male, presented onset of symptoms on April 22, and deceased on arrival at the health facility," a WHO statement said.

"Two contacts of this case are being investigated: a person who took care of him during transport to the health care facility, he has since developed similar symptoms, and a moto-taxi driver who transported the patient to the health care facility," it said, adding that the taxi driver had died.

Two more suspected cases were found in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of cases to 11, WHO's Congo spokesman Eugene Kabambi told Reuters.

A vaccine was trialed among almost 12,000 people in the Guinean capital, Conakry, through to January last year. Results showed the experimental vaccine offered protection against the virus and would help to bolster an early response to future outbreaks. It was still awaiting formal licensing clearance.

In 2014, the DRC was hit by its seventh Ebola virus outbreak, which killed 49 people but was unrelated to the concurrent outbreak in West Africa. The West African Ebola virus epidemic killed more than 10,000 people between 2013 and 2016.

Ebola is a highly contagious hemorrhagic fever that can be transmitted from animals, including bats and monkeys. The virus is fatal in up to 90 percent of cases.

aw/cmk (AFP, Reuters, dpa, AP)

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