WHO RAISES EBOLA HEALTH RISK TO ‘VERY HIGH’ IN DR CONGO, NOT YET INTERNATIONAL EMERGENCY

The World Health Organization (WHO) has raised the Ebola health risk assessment to “very high” in the Democratic Republic of Congo, ahead of an emergency meeting Friday to discuss the worsening outbreak.

Concerns about the spread of the disease escalated Thursday when the health body announced the first case had been detected in Mbandaka, a city of nearly 1.2 million people.

More than 11,000 people died in the Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014-2015, mainly in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. The last outbreak in the DRC was in 2014 and killed more than 40 people. The region affected lies 1,300 km north-east of Kinshasa, close to the border with the Central African Republic.

Ebola virus disease (EVD), formerly known as Ebola haemorrhagic fever, is a severe, often fatal illness in humans.

Transmission: The virus is transmitted to people from wild animals and spreads in the human population through human-to-human transmission.

The average EVD case fatality rate is around 50%. Case fatality rates have varied from 25% to 90% in past outbreaks.

Prevention: Community engagement is key to successfully controlling outbreaks. Good outbreak control relies on applying a package of interventions, namely case management, surveillance and contact tracing, a good laboratory service and social mobilisation.

Early supportive care with rehydration, symptomatic treatment improves survival. There is as yet no licensed treatment proven to neutralise the virus but a range of blood, immunological and drug therapies are under development.

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