In another fresh outbreak of the killer Ebola virus in the Democratic republic of Congo, the World Health Organization has today said it was preparing for “the worst case scenario”, reports Punch.
WHO’s head of emergency response Peter Salama told reporters in Geneva, “We are very concerned, and we are planning for all scenarios, including the worst case scenario,”. This is after the organization recorded 32 suspected or confirmed cases in the northwestern area of Bikoro, on the shores of Lake Tumbathe near the border with the Republic of Congo, which includes 18 deaths, between April 4 and May 9. It includes three healthcare workers, including one who has died, Salama said.
The outbreak was pronounced by the DRC health ministry on Tuesday. It is the DRC’s ninth known outbreak of Ebola since 1976, when the deadly viral disease was first identified in then-Zaire by a Belgian-led team.
WHO already has a team on the ground and is preparing to send up to 40 more specialists in epidemiology, logistics, contact tracing and other areas to the region in the coming week or so.
Salama also said the UN health organization hoped to have a mobile laboratory up and running on ground this weekend.
At the same time, WHO and the World Food Programme are working to set up an “air-bridge” to help bring in the supplies needed, he said, adding though that only helicopters could be used until an airfield could be cleared to allow larger planes to land. The response “is going to be extremely challenging, and very costly,” he said.
The WHO is also awaiting a green light from DRC authorities to begin a vaccination campaign in the area, using an available stockpile of an experimental vaccine, he said.
As for the risk, Salama said WHO was especially concerned about the near-term spread of the disease, including to Mbandaka, the capital of Equateur province, which has around one million inhabitants and is only a few hours away from Bikoro.
In addition, he said that the surrounding nine countries had been put on “high alert”. The WHO was especially concerned about the possible spread to neighbouring Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic, which has connections to the affected area through the river systems.
He stressed however that the possibility of international spread of the disease was still considered “low”, but said the situation was constantly being evaluated.