Ebola outbreak in Congo: things are getting worse

The latest Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo has proven a sumbitch to contain. Since this latest "oh shit" moment in the history of this infectious outbreak started on August 1st, the brave healthcare professionals and epidemiologists throwing their shoulders into the problem have reported 200 total cases of the disease, 117 confirmed Ebola-related deaths and 35 deaths that are probably related to the illness. This latest outbreak, the 10th to have cropped up in Congo since 1976, is proving more difficult, logistically, than past outbreaks have been. The epicenter of the outbreak is in North Kivu Province: chockablock with danger as government forces, local militias and regional warlords get their violence on. This makes getting folks in the region to the care that they need and, just as vital, containing the disease, far more difficult than it already is.

From The New York Times:

Congolese rebels have killed 15 civilians and abducted a dozen children in an attack in the center of the latest outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus, Congo’s military said Sunday. The violence threatened to again force the suspension of efforts to contain the virus.

Congo’s health ministry has reported “numerous aggressions” in the new outbreak against health workers, who have described hearing gunshots daily. Many are operating under the armed escort of United Nations peacekeepers or Congolese security forces, and ending work by sundown to lower the risk of attack.

The World Health Organization hasn't classified the outbreak as a world health emergency, yet. Read the rest

'No one should be sleeping well tonight': WHO encourages fear of Ebola

The Democratic Republic of Congo continues to fight off the worst Ebola outbreak in years. Butembo, a major regional hub of 1 million people, has now had a confirmed death.

The World Health Organization is worried, and recommends you worry too.

Via HuffPo:

The Democratic Republic of Congo has confirmed its first Ebola death in the eastern city of Butembo, a trade hub with Uganda that is home to almost a million people. This first urban death, combined with ongoing violence in the northeastern outbreak area in DRC and some community resistance, is worrying experts that the slowing outbreak could still escalate.

Having already killed 87 people, this outbreak is close to becoming the eighth-largest Ebola outbreak in history. While officials have been pleased with the decreasing pace of cases and a successful vaccination and contact tracing campaign, this new case in an urban setting is worrisome, Peter Salama, the World Health Organization’s emergency response chief, told HuffPost.

“When you have an Ebola case confirmed in a city with 1 million people, no one should be sleeping well tonight around the world,” Salama said.

The patient traveled from the current outbreak hotspot, the town of Beni, 35 miles southwest, to Butembo after disregarding medical advice, Salama said. The patient died at a health facility there.

While WHO team members are on site and working to quickly trace and vaccinate those with whom the patient came into contact, the potential for further spread could “change the trajectory of the outbreak,” Salama said.

Read the rest

Warring militant groups are making the fight against Ebola even more dangerous than it already is

Around a month ago, Ebola popped back up in the Democratic Republic of Congo, scant days after the World Health Organization had declared that another outbreak of the disease had come to an end.

Trying to contain the Ebola virus, which is transmitted via bodily fluids, can be a nightmare for healthcare professionals, especially in areas where medical resources and the infrastructure required to rapidly deploy field investigators, ship HAZMAT gear or refrigerate vaccines is non-existent. Doing it in a war zone? So much worse. But that’s where the latest outbreak is going down.

Congo’s North Kivu Province is hotly contested by a number of militant groups, vying for control over the region’s mineral resources. There’s a lot of shooting. There’s a lot of blood. The local population, fearing for their lives, is highly mobile. This makes it hard to track Ebola or treat those who risk further spreading the virus. In the midst of this untenable situation, even those brave enough to risk their own lives to keep the disease at bay are now proving vulnerable.

From The Guardian:

The WHO said a doctor in Oicha had been hospitalised with Ebola, and 97 of his contacts had been identified. “It is the first time we have a confirmed case and contacts in an area of high insecurity. It is really the problem we were anticipating and at the same time dreading,” Salama said.

Karin Huster, coordinator for Médecins Sans Frontières in Mangina, the epicentre of the outbreak, said new patients were arriving at the emergency treatment units every day.

Read the rest

Ebola in a war zone: what could go wrong?

A few days after skipping out on the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ebola decided, ‘nah,’ cropping back up in a town of around 60,000 potential carriers called Mangina, located in Congo’s North Kivu province. Since the latest outbreak was identified, four people have died of the hemorrhagic fever. The World Health Organization is hoping that the strain of Ebola that’s shown up in North Kivu province is the same as the one that Congolese health workers and an international team of medical professionals were able to put down, this past July: they have a vaccine for that particular strain and it works fabulously. The WHO plans on giving the vaccine a go with this new outbreak—fingers crossed! Unfortunately, in addition to the possibility that the vaccine might not work for this Ebola outbreak, those tasked with stemming the spread of the disease are facing a threat that doesn’t involve contracting a virus: Working in an active war zone.

From The New York Times:

But North Kivu Province, the volatile region in the Democratic Republic of Congo where the new outbreak is centered, creates security complications that health officials did not confront in the outbreak they just defeated in northwest Équateur Province, 1,550 miles away. The World Health Organization is worried about the safety of medical workers in North Kivu and their access to areas controlled by militants.

“This new cluster is occurring in an environment which is very different from where we were operating in the northwest,” said Dr. Peter Salama, the deputy director general of the health agency and the head of its emergency response unit.

Read the rest

World Health Organization: Ebola's back, baby!

So… remember a few days ago when the World Health Organization declared the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo as having come to an end. Well, the disease is back on its bullshit again with a brand-new outbreak in the same damn country.

From Al Jazeera:

Four cases of the virus were confirmed in northeastern North Kivu province, the DRC's health minister said in a statement on Wednesday, though there was no indication they were linked to the country's previous - and ninth - Ebola outbreak in northwestern Equateur Province.

"Although we did not expect to face a tenth epidemic so early, the detection of the virus is an indicator of the proper functioning of the surveillance system," Health Minister Oly Ilunga said.

However, it might be impossible to use a vaccine to tackle the new outbreak, Peter Salama, a senior World Health Organization (WHO) official, said.

Yeah, that’s right: the vaccine that worked a miracle this past go-around with Ebola may not be able to do anything for anyone during the latest outbreak of the disease. Experts currently believe that the iteration of Ebola that Congo is currently facing could be one of three strains Zaire, Sudan or Bundibugyo. If it’s the Zaire strain of the disease? Party time: the vaccine developed by Merck should work a treat on it. Unfortunately, if one of the other two possible strains is responsible for the latest outbreak, The WHO admits that there may not be a vaccine option for them to undertake. Read the rest

Latest Ebola outbreak has come to an end

After three months and 33 deaths, the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo has been declared by the World Health Organization to have come to an end. The loss of 33 lives to the disease is absolutely tragic, but comes close to a miracle when you stop to consider the fact that the last time Ebola broke in West Africa, more than 11,000 people died. The high number of deaths in that instance was due to the fact that The WHO (not the one with Roger Daltrey,) was slow to react to the epidemic last time around, moving slowly to deploy medical resources to the regions that needed it the most. Additionally, no vaccine designed to fight the Ebola virus was put into play until near the end of the outbreak.

That wasn’t the case this time.

After being tongue lashed for dragging their ass during the last outbreak, The WHO sent specialists to Congo as soon as a handful of cases of Ebola were confirmed, back in May.

From the New York Times:

Even though Congo is familiar with Ebola — this was the country’s ninth outbreak since the disease first appeared in 1976 — more than 350 support personnel were deployed there. They included vaccinators from Guinea, where a novel Ebola vaccine was first field-tested.

The Congo outbreak marked the first in which an Ebola vaccine was readily available. In addition to giving injections to all front-line health care workers, experts used “ring vaccination” to protect all contacts of each person with the disease.

Read the rest

Fight against Ebola continues in high security African lab

With all of the horrible things happening in America right now, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the news and forget that there are other, equally terrible things happening elsewhere. Take Ebola, for example: it’s still a thing! Fortunately, it’s a thing being taken very seriously by very serious men and women at a research facility in the Central African country of Gabon.

According to AFP, an elite group of scientists staffing a heavily fortified level P4 isolation laboratory are working themselves raw trying to find a way to stop the deadly hemorrhagic fever-inducing disease in its tracks. Security at the facility is tight: only four people – three researchers and a technician – are allowed into the lab. The lab is part of a larger research facility called the Franceville International Centre for Medical Research (CIRMF).

From AFP:

Founded in 1979 by Gabon's late president Omar Bongo Ondimba to study national fertility rates, the CIRMF moved on to AIDS, malaria, cancer, viral diseases and the neglected tropical maladies that affect a billion people around the world, according to the WHO.

The centre is financed by the Gabonese state, whose main wealth is derived from oil exports, and gets help from France.

In all, 150 people work for the CIRMF and live on the huge premises. Its reputation draws scientists, students and apprentices from Asia, Europe and the United States, as well as Africa.

Read the rest

Ebola keeps on keeping on

Hey gang, let's talk Ebola: Everyone's favorite viral boogeyman.

Over the weekend, the AFP News Agency reported that health professionals in the Democratic Republic of Congo have uncovered five new confirmed cases of Ebola: three cases in the Bikoro area and two in Wangata. This most recent outbreak of the disease in the country’s northwest has resulted in more than 50 confirmed cases and 25 deaths. These numbers, of course, only reflect the incidents of the disease that health agencies such as the World Health Organization and Medecins Sans Frontieres and DR Congo’s healthcare system are aware of.

As such, the push to track everyone who has come into contact with the disease and take appropriate precautions continues, albeit slowly. One of the biggest hurtles in tracking and containing Ebola is that, logistically, the rural regions of DR Congo are a pain in the ass. The roads are often so pocketed with potholes that the only way to reliable traverse them is with a motorcycle—and that’s if there are any roads at all. Many of the smaller villages surrounding Bikoro are packed away by dense jungle. Additionally, cellular coverage in the country’s northwestern region comes with massive holes. This makes doing important work, such as sending field operatives into areas of infection, shipping vaccines or sending collected data back for processing extremely difficult.

According to the New York Times, because of these difficulties, researchers are having a hard time piecing together how the current strain of the virus was transmitted. This, in turn, makes vaccinating the right people in the hopes of stopping the spread of the disease an uphill battle. Read the rest

Vaccinations against Ebola begin in Congolese town of Bikoro

Last week, officials in charge of stemming the latest outbreak of Ebola virus in the Democratic Republic of Congo began the process of inoculating healthcare workers and other individuals who may have come in direct contact with infect individuals, in the Congolese city of Mbandaka. According to The Globe & Mail, inoculations are now also being doled out in Bikoro, a town in the northwest of Congo, where 5 of the 12 confirmed cases of Ebola are believed to have originated.

It’s believed that there are at least 56 cases of the Ebola: 35 cases have been confirmed, leaving 13 probable cases and 13 suspected cases for doctors to deal with and patients to fret over.

From The Globe & Mail:

Amid worries of the spread of Ebola, several schools in the Iboko health zone, about 180 kilometres (112 miles) southeast of Mbandaka, have been closed, according to reports by U.N.-backed Radio Okapi.

Many residents in one of the Iboko localities told Radio Okapi that they prefer to stay at home to avoid infection, following the death of a woman who had Ebola in the nearby Bobala area.

One resident said that what they first thought were rumours were becoming reality with the death and that they were very scared to interact. Four confirmed Ebola deaths have taken place in the Iboko health zone, according to Congo’s health ministry.

Given that the hemorrhagic fever-causing virus has up to a 90% chance of killing those that it infects, to say that such precautions and the fear that those living in areas where the virus has cropped up during this most recent outbreak are reasonable would be an understatement. Read the rest

Two late-stage Ebola patients break quarantine, the number they may have infected is unknown

Last week, the Democratic Republic of Congo’s latest Ebola outbreak was confirmed to have spread to Mbandaka, a transportation hub, home to over one million people. As of the time that this post was written, 31 cases of the disease have been confirmed in the west African nation. Of those confirmed to have been afflicted, nine have died.

Oh, and three individuals confirmed to have contracted the disease, two of which who were showing significant symptoms, managed to escape quarantine and mingle with an unknown number of people.

From the Washington Post:

In a briefing in Geneva, Jean-Clement Cabrol, a doctor who had just returned from Congo, said "the patients were in the active phase of the disease, vomiting" when their families removed them from the hospital, put them on motorcycles, and took them to a religious gathering of 50 people. Ebola is contagious through bodily fluids, and both patients, who were at an acute phase of the illness, died within hours.

Those two were among the three Ebola patients who left a hospital isolation ward and reentered the general population, according to the Doctors Without Borders mission in the Congolese city of Mbandaka.

That two of the patients, at the height of their power to infect others, opted to leave the quarantine that they’d been put under reads like something monstrous. But it couldn’t be more human. In their final hours, the pair, knowing that death couldn’t have been closer, turned to the comfort of their families and their faith, hoping that it would be a balm against the unspeakable misery that they must have been in. Read the rest

Ebola outbreak in Congo has spread to city of one million people

The latest Ebola outbreak in Congo has moved from the rural area in which is was first discovered to Mbandaka: a city home to approximately one million people. That the disease has spread to an area with such a dense population is extremely troubling all on its own. Add to this the fact that Mbandaka is a major transportation hub with an airport, river traffic and direct transport options to Kinshasa, Congo's capital city, and you've got a scenario with the potential to keep World Health Organization personnel awake at night.

From the BBC

Forty-two people have now been infected and 23 people are known to have died.

Confirmed, probable and suspected cases of Ebola have been recorded in three health zones of Congo's Equateur province, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said.

The WHO's Peter Salama said health workers had identified 430 people who may have had contact with the disease and were working to trace more than 4,000 contacts of Ebola patients, who had spread across northwest Congo.

As part of efforts to stem the spread of the often deadly disease, drug manufacturer, Merick, shipped 4,000 doses of an unlicensed Ebola vaccine to Congo that was proven to have been effective in a previous outbreak of the disease in West Africa. There's just one problem: the vaccine needs to be stored between -60 and -80 Celsius. In a first world country, that mightn't be an issue--we've the facilities and infrastructure to make chilling the vaccine to those temperatures a piece of cake. Read the rest

We've got to stop turning our backs on Ebola

Remember back in 2014 when everyone thought that an Ebola outbreak in Africa wouldn't be a problem for North Americans and then – and this is the shit and giggle part – four laboratory-confirmed cases of the hemorrhagic fever showed up in the United States? Everyone, justifiably, freaked out. The panic didn't last, though. As the countries like Liberia, Mali and Sierra Leone began to report that the control measures put in place to stem the spread of the disease were starting to have an effect, the notion of Ebola being the big-bad of our time faded from the public eye. But just because you can't see something doesn't mean it can't hurt you.

From the CBC:

Cases of hemorrhagic fever were reported in an area of Congo facing an Ebola epidemic as long ago as December and the first deaths were reported in January, the World Health Organization said on Thursday, as four new suspected cases surfaced.

The health ministry said on Tuesday that at least 17 people had died in an area of northwestern Democratic Republic of Congo where health officials have now confirmed an outbreak of Ebola, although it did not give a time-frame for the deaths.

Only two confirmed cases: no big deal, right? It's hard to say.

Ebola takes time to show itself. Someone who's contracted the disease can wander around, feeling great and infecting people as they go, for weeks, before any symptoms arise. According to the CBC, this time around, while only two cases of the disease have been confirmed, experts on the ground suspect that four new cases, including two nurses who were treating individuals infected with Ebola, will soon be verified as well. Read the rest

Ebola-free Liberia mysteriously gets 3rd new victim today

After almost two months of an Ebola-free Liberia, the deadly disease has reared its head again. And officials fear there may be a new way of contracting it. Three cases have popped up in the last twelve days, in the village of Nedowein, 30 miles from Liberia's capital, and no one knows how the victims were infected. The first victim was a 17-year-old boy who died on Sunday. The other two victims from the same village, ages 24 and 27, are in stable condition. None of the three had visited countries still infected with Ebola, which adds mystery to this new round of Ebola.

"An Ebola case being reported in the middle part of Liberia is confusing," said Adolphus Gbinee, Memaigar's uncle. "We do not have cases at our borders, not even in Monrovia. How could Ebola jump over those places and come here in Nedowein?"

One theory is that it was transmitted by an animal. The three infected people had all eaten a dead dog that had been dug up before they came down with the virus. Another theory is that the disease hadn't actually been completely eradicated from Liberia. And a third theory is that perhaps the disease was spread through semen, which can carry the virus for 90 days. Researchers are looking at these and other possible ways the disease could have made a comeback.

Officials are keeping tabs on 175 people who had contact with the victims. Over 11,200 people have died from the West African outbreak since 2013. Read the rest

Sexual transmission of Ebola suspected in new case

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control report that a woman in Liberia is suspected of having contracted Ebola through sexual intercourse.

After falling ill in Monrovia, the 44-year-old victim was found to have only one link to the often-fatal disease: unprotected vaginal intercourse with a survivor.

"Published reports from previous outbreaks have demonstrated Ebola survivors can continue to harbor virus in immunologically privileged sites for a period of time after convalescence," the CDC's Athalia Christie wrote. "Ebola virus has been isolated from semen as long as 82 days after symptom onset and viral RNA has been detected in semen up to 101 days after symptom onset."

It cautioned that it is not possible to "definitively ascribe" Ebola infection to sexual contact, but recommends that contact with the semen of male Ebola survivors be avoided until more information of its infectiousness is known. Male survivors should always use condoms, the CDC recommends.

The Ebola outbreak has diminished over the past few months, according to the report. Read the rest

Fighting Ebola through music: Sierra Leone's Jimmy B and “Ebola 4 Go”

In his music video "Ebola 4 Go", Sierra Leone music star Jimmy Yeanie Bangura, aka “Jimmy B,” pays homage to the fight against Ebola. Read the rest

GamerGate metaphor: Woman pulls gun on ISIS member with ebola raping her pit bull

#GamerGate metaphor: Woman pulls #gun on #ISIS member with #ebola raping her pit bull in the most buzzword-filled news headline of the year. Read the rest

Passengers ebola joke triggers hazmat panic

When a dark-skinned man sneezed on a plane then joked about having ebola, the flight crew took no chances and called a team in hazardous material suits to escort him off the plane.

The passenger had never been in Africa. He did not have Ebola. Read the rest

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