The ongoing Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has reached a particularly tragic milestone. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the outbreak is now the second largest in the 42-year history of Ebola.
On Thursday, the WHO reported that there were 426 confirmed or probable cases of viral disease in the EU since July, with 245 confirmed or probable deaths as a result. The vast majority of cases were in the province of North Kivu in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but also in the province of Ituri, north of northern Kivu, 19 confirmed cases were detected.
The outbreak is far from the current record during a 2014 to 2016 Ebola epidemic. Nearly 30,000 cases and more than 10,000 deaths occurred in this outbreak, especially in West Africa. However, it threatens that the situation will worsen.
Although there was a first break in the first september episodes pointing to the outbreak of the current outbreak, there has been a second wave since October with no clear ending in sight. There are reports of suspected cases in other regions of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and neighboring countries such as Uganda. In September, WHO stated that the risk of Ebola spreading to Uganda was "very high".
Ebola spreads through close contact with body fluids such as blood or semen. And many of his symptoms, including heavy bleeding and vomiting, allow the spread. But external factors have made it particularly difficult to combat this outbreak. The armed conflict in the region between the government and the rebel militias has hampered attempts to track down transmission chains and to send medical supplies and doctors to where they are needed. Residents have sometimes refused the efforts of medical personnel to collect the bodies of the deceased and to safely bury them to prevent further contamination. There has been some concern for a long time that these workers are spreading the disease themselves, as Time has reported.
If there is a positive sign However, there are many more tools against Ebola for healthcare workers.
An experimental vaccine that has shown promise in limited test runs during the 2015 outbreak has been given to residents and health care professionals who may have contacted or contacted infected people, while vaccines are also being used in Uganda Health workers, Reuters reports. Earlier this week, WHO announced the start of a randomized clinical trial in which several experimental drugs are being tested simultaneously.
Patients receive one out of four medications that, in addition to standard care, have shown some success in treating the disease. The design of the study is designed to confirm the safety and efficacy of any drug, but without depriving a patient of a potential drug that might work. By introducing a protocol for the study, WHO hopes that effective medicines can be sent much faster to those in need in the future.
"So far, patients have been treated according to a" compassionate-use "protocol with medication and had a good safety profile in laboratory conditions," said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in a statement. "The huge step now taken by the DRC will provide clarity on what works best and save many lives in the years to come. We hope that one day we can say that the death and suffering of Ebola are behind us.
Despite this optimism, there is a large group that was strikingly absent on the fronts of the outbreak: scientists from the US government.
In October, the State Department confirmed that it is keeping healthcare officials from US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention out of the affected DRC regions. The government has raised security concerns about armed violence in the region, but Ebola experts have sharply criticized the move. This week alone, editorials by public health experts in two major medical journals – JAMA and the New England Journal of Medicine – have urged the US government to send more resources to the Democratic Republic of the Congo to fight the epidemic, including of the staff.
The worsening of the outbreak makes it imperative that these security concerns be addressed and the CDC staff return to the field, "the authors said in the NEJM editorial board.