'Strong progress' in calming Congo Ebola outbreak


The Ministry of Health of the Democratic Republic of Congo reported a new death caused by the Ebola virus following the declared Ebola outbreak in the north-west of the country, bringing the total number of deaths to 27, of which only 13 have been Ebola-confirmed.

Emergency Health Chief, Peter Salama, said this at a news conference in Geneva. The village has no electricity, and World Health Organization workers travel by motorcycles because four-wheeled vehicles have a hard time navigating area roads.

"What this is telling us is the response (the WHO's vaccination program) is having an impact in those two locations", said Salama. The newest confirmed case is in rural Iboko and is linked to a probable Ebola death on May 20, the ministry said.

The new case is in the remote Iboko health zone in Congo's northwest.

Over 1,800 health workers and other people who could have been exposed to the virus have received an experimental vaccine first tested in the waning days of the West Africa epidemic.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has vaccinated more than 1,000 people over the past two weeks, including health workers who are at high risk.

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"Phase one, to protect urban centers and towns, has gone well and we can be cautiously optimistic".

He warned, however, that experts are not in a position to document all chains of transmission of the virus, so "there may still yet be unknown chains out there and there may still be surprises in this outbreak". It's the identification and follow-up of all people who may have come into contact with a person infected with the infectious disease. The infrastructure is only beginning to catch up, he added, with motorcycles arriving now.

The Catholic Church in Congo said emergency measures will remain indefinitely in place in parishes at risk of Ebola, and urged effective action against the disease by the government of President Joseph Kabila.

Clinicians working in the treatment centres will make decisions on which drug to use as deemed helpful for their patients, and appropriate for the setting.

Most recently, a team of Chinese experts will arrive in Kinshasa on Friday to join the global effort, which includes nations from the European Union, Japan and the United States in assisting the Congolese health authorities, according to the Ministry of Health.

"We're cautiously optimistic but there's a lot of work", said Salama. "But we know to never underestimate Ebola".