5 new suspected Ebola cases reported in Congo's northwest

The World Health Organization (WHO) has said it is preparing for "the worst case scenario" as it deals with a recent outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus in the Democratic Republic of Congo from spreading any further.

In a press conference given in Geneva on Friday, Peter Salama, head of the WHO's emergency response, told reporters the worldwide health organization is taking the newest outbreak of this Ebola virus very seriously.

The West African outbreak lasted for three years, infected about 28,000 people, killed 11,000 and spread out of Africa to places like the United States and Europe.

"We are very concerned and planning for all scenarios, including the worst-case scenario", Salama said.

Congo's health ministry on Tuesday, May 8, described the fresh outbreak as a "public health emergency with global impact".

As of 11 May 2018, there are a total of 34 cases, with 18 deaths (case fatality rate 52.9%), among which two cases are confirmed, 14 suspected and 18 probable. On average, about 50% of people who become ill with Ebola die.

The illness brought Africa to its knees earlier this decade - with more than 11,000 people being killed in an outbreak.

It is "absolutely a dire scene in terms of infrastructure" as medical teams try to contain the outbreak in a region with poor water and sanitation, few paved roads and little electricity, he said. In fact, during the large West Africa outbreak, another Ebola popped up in the DRC (66 cases) and was promptly detected and contained.

Scientists believe Ebola is most transmitted to people from wild animals like fruit bats, antelope, porcupines, gorillas, and chimpanzees.

"We are very concerned and planning for all scenarios, including the worst case scenario", Peter Salama, WHO's Deputy Director-General of Emergency Preparedness and Response, told a regular United Nations briefing in Geneva.

In addition, he said the surrounding nine countries had been put on "high alert".

This Ebola outbreak is the DRC's 9th known outbreak since 1976, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The WHO has warned that the virus could resurface at any time, as it can linger in the eyes, central nervous system and bodily fluids of some survivors.

Democratic Republic of Congo - a simple intervention that could potentially have saved thousands of lives had it been ready in 2014.

Salama said he spoke to Congo's Health Minister Oly Ilunga on Thursday and hoped to get approval within days to use a vaccine developed by Merck in 2016.

Vanessa Coleman

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