Ebola outbreak reaches 2,338 cases among violence in Ituri

Tuesday, July 2, 2019
By Paul Martin

Stephanie Soucheray
CIDRAP News
Jul 01, 2019

Over the weekend and through today, the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s (DRC) ministry of health recorded 41 more cases of the deadly disease, including another case detected in a vaccinated health worker.

The continued spread of the outbreak in North Kivu and Ituri provinces has been marked in recent days by increased cases in Beni, Mabalako, and Masereka. These are the towns and villages where the outbreak began 11 months ago. The health worker who was infected is the outbreak’s 126th and was also from Mabalako.

Ethnic violence
Late last week, the United Nations (UN) voiced concerns about ongoing massacres and ethnic violence in the DRC’s Ituri province, according to UN News.

At least 94 people were killed in Djugu territory and 23 in Mahagi territory, including an as-yet undetermined number of women and children, officials said. The violence could influence the Ebola outbreak, as it may prompt more migration into neighboring countries such as Uganda, which a few weeks ago confirmed its first cases linked to the outbreak, in a family traveling from the DRC.

The UN also said the disease was moving into small, forest-based villages such as Alima, where access is “more challenging.”

According to the latest updates to the World Health Organization’s (WHO’s) Ebola dashboard, the DRC will likely confirm 13 more cases of the viral disease today, raising outbreak totals to 2,338 cases. As of yesterday, 1,563 people had died in the outbreak, and 309 suspected cases are under investigation.

Over the weekend the DRC health ministry described a cluster of five cases from Beni, including a mother who fled Ituri province with her children. The family was transferred back to Ituri province for care.

Vaccines reviewed by health ministry
Late last week, Oly Ilunga Kalenga, MD, the minister of health in the DRC, held a meeting in Kinshasa to review experimental Ebola vaccine candidates.

Since Aug 8, 2018 — 8 days after the outbreak began — only Merck’s rVSV-ZEBOV has been deployed in a ring vaccination strategy. As of yesterday, 146,316 people had been vaccinated with Merck’s product.

During the meeting, Kalenga and other officials considered experimental vaccines from Merck, Johnson & Johnson, CanSino Biologics Inc, and Rospotrebnadzor. Leaders and researchers from the pharmaceutical companies, as well as international experts from the WHO, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), and the World Bank, among others, also attended the meeting.

“Recognizing that Ebola is an emerging disease and in order to help advance science, the Ministry of Health is open to the option of starting new clinical trials with one or more of these on the sidelines of the current epidemic,” the ministry said. DRC officials, however, did not opt to approve any other vaccine for use in the outbreak at this point.

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