Ebola veteran warns virus could become entrenched in DRC if outbreak response does not improve

Saturday, August 10, 2019
By Paul Martin

Helen Branswell
August 9, 2019

A long-time veteran of Ebola responses has raised serious concerns about the way the current outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is being handled, saying he fears transmission of the virus may not be stopped in the region.

In a commentary published in the journal Lancet Infectious Diseases, Dr. Pierre Rollin criticized the response for a lack of coordination and urged the DRC health ministry to accept more outside help to support laboratory services and generate real-time genetic sequencing of viruses, something authorities there have been unwilling to do so far.

The state of the outbreak, Rollin said, has not improved and unless it does, the virus could become endemic — entrenched — in the region. That view is not widely shared by other Ebola experts, he acknowledged in an interview Friday with STAT. Still, he sees it as a real possibility.

“I don’t think the virus will be endemic in one town or one aire de santé (health area) or zone de santé (health zone). It’s going to keep moving until it moves to the place where we cannot go at all, and we have no clue of what’s going on,” said Rollin, who retired from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in January.

“If we don’t catch up and if we don’t get a good grasp on what’s going on with the transmission, it’s going to keep going,” he said flatly.

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