Ebola outbreak declared a public health emergency of international concern

Hey! Remember last month when the World Health Organization was like 'nah, let's not declare this outbreak of a viral hemorrhagic fever that's killed over 1,000 people this time around a public health emergency of international concern'? They were afraid that the flow of aid could be impeded into the outbreak's hot zone, located in the Democratic Republic of Congo, as nations around the world closed their borders to flights in and out of the disease and civil war-addled nation. Welp, screw that: earlier today, the WHO back-peddled on their nah, transforming it into a slightly panicked Yeah.

From The World Health Organization:

WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus today declared the Ebola virus disease (EVD) outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC).

“It is time for the world to take notice and redouble our efforts. We need to work together in solidarity with the DRC to end this outbreak and build a better health system,” said Dr. Tedros. “Extraordinary work has been done for almost a year under the most difficult circumstances. We all owe it to these responders -- coming from not just WHO but also government, partners and communities -- to shoulder more of the burden.”

At the time that this post was well, posted, the count for the number of individuals known to have died due to Ebola had risen to 1676 deaths (1582 confirmed, 94 probable) in the Democratic Republic of Congo. What made the WHO change their minds on declaring an emergency? Read the rest

Ebola's still raging

The last time I wrote about Ebola, there were 117 confirmed related deaths along with the 35 deaths likely related to the most recent outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Roll forward eight months and more than 2,100 people have been infected and 1,400 are now dead from the disease. In this past week, it was announced that the viral hemorrhagic fever had made its way into Congo's neighbor, Uganda. It's become the second-most devastating outbreak of Ebola in history. The only outbreak of the disease more severe took place between 2013 and 2016. Then, 11,000 people died.

A panel made up of 10 infections disease experts told the World Health Organization (W.H.O.) announced that, as dire as the situation might be, calling the outbreak, what it is--sn international emergency--would be a bad idea. It makes sense: as the New York Times points out, saying that the hemorrhagic fever is an international emergency could lead to neighboring countries shuttering their borders to the Democratic Republic of Congo and forbidding flights to and from the region. That'd be a non-starter for keeping much-needed medical and scientific aid flowing into the hot zone. Despite the fact that folks are dying painfully and on a startling scale, the international community is doing jack shit to help stamp out the outbreak. This is especially troubling, given the fact that the hot zone for this outbreak also happens to be in a war zone. Medical operations have been chronically stalled or stopped do to the dangerous working environment that the individuals brave enough to face the disease have been subjected to. Read the rest

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

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