Congo Ebola cases present high national but low global risk

Congo Ebola cases present high national but low global risk

Health workers are monitoring more than 400 people amid an Ebola outbreak in a remote corner of Congo where already three deaths have been blamed on the virus, the World Health Organization said Thursday.

Salama said that there were now 18 suspected cases of Ebola, resulting in three deaths, and two cases of laboratory confirmed Ebola.

So far, he told reporters, no other deaths have been reported, but the World Health Organization thinks that there are at least 20 cases of the Zaire strain of Ebola, with two confirmed so far by laboratory testing. The risk assessment is high at a national level, medium at a regional level and now low at a global level, said Peter Salama, WHO's executive director for health emergencies, during a telephone briefing.

All told, the first six months of the response to the outbreak is likely to cost some $10 million, Salama said.

The African Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently activated its Emergency Operational Centre in response to the recently-declared Ebola virus disease (EVD) outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in order to develop a concept of operations for the emergency.

He also said there are only 20 kilometres of paved roads in that area and virtually no functional telecommunications.

Health workers would also be given the vaccine.

The first Ebola treatment center was recently established in Likati, and the construction and deployment of a mobile lab is in process. That vaccine is not yet approved by any government authority but Salama said it could be used under compassionate use circumstances if the DRC government agrees.

"We believe that the DRC's government has strong experience ... and a proven track record of handling Ebola outbreaks", Salama said.

In December, doctors from the World Health Organization, Doctors Without Borders and others reported in the medical journal The Lancet that the vaccine was 100% effective at preventing people from contracting Ebola's deadly hemorrhagic fever once it kicked in, when tested during the West African epidemic.

But, he added, "we have also learned never, ever to underestimate the Ebola virus diseases, and we will be remaining vigilant".

During that epidemic, a vaccine made by Merck was successfully tested in hard-hit Guinea. "[We are] putting all these preparations in place so it can go at that speed as soon as we get the green light". "They have been the people who are leading surveillance in the country", Moeti said. There are 18 other suspected cases. "We're expecting to get to the epicenter by the weekend".