Ebola outbreak worsens in DRC

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And it feeds into the Congo and Ubangi rivers-major waterways that connect to several large centers.

"We're concerned because this is a city of 1 million people", she said. The UN's World Food Program (WFP) has therefore facilitated an air bridge consisting of daily flights to transport staff, food and supplies to the region. "The vaccines are going to arrive on Wednesday or Thursday". Weller cited an Ebola outbreak nearly a year ago in the DRC that was contained quickly contained. "We have better weapons this time".

The health ministry said: "Our country is facing another epidemic of the Ebola virus, which constitutes an worldwide public health emergency". Cases were reported from the Bikoro health zone (n=29; two confirmed, 20 probable and 7 suspected cases), Iboko health zone (n=8; three probable and five suspected cases) and Wangata health zone (n=2; two probable cases). At least 18 of those people have died.

Three health care workers are among those who have been infected. Since the first recorded outbreaks in the 1970s, most have been both vicious and short-lived, with the very remoteness of the landscape and the means of viral transmission (through direct contact with the body fluids of infected patients) providing a kind of natural buffer.

With road travel between Bikoro and Mbandaka taking about 15 hours, establishing an "air bridge" is "the only way to mount a serious response", World Health Organization deputy director-general for emergency response Peter Salama said. WHO's director-general met President Joseph Kabila and traveled to Bikoro together with DRC Health Minister Oly Ilunga.

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Tedros said multiple response partners are already on the ground at Bikoro, including Doctors Without Borders, which takes the lead on treating people with Ebola, and the International Federation of the Red Cross, which takes the lead on safe burial practices.

The WHO Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom, said based on the current assessment and response need, the estimated budget for the worldwide response is $18 million (N6.4 billion) for a three-month operation.

The vaccine, developed by pharmaceutical giant Merck, was tested during the Ebola crisis in Guinea and is the most effective one produced thus far. At this stage, it can also only be used in the context of a clinical trial-plans for which are already in the works.

Medical officers have been deployed at the airport to screen all passengers coming into the country, especially those from neighboring DRC where there is an Ebola outbreak. Here are some of the most recent epidemics.

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