Congo-Kinshasa: WHO Reports 'Very Strong Progress' in Battling Ebola Outbreak

Congo-Kinshasa: WHO Reports 'Very Strong Progress' in Battling Ebola Outbreak

Congo has made great strides in fighting Ebola, but the virus is not yet under control, a senior World Health Organisation (WHO) official said on Friday, a month after an outbreak was declared in the country.

Dr. Salama, the United Nations health agency's Deputy Director-General for Emergency Preparedness and Response, was fresh from a two-day visit to the DRC.

World Health Organization is now entering a new phase in which it moves its focus from urban areas to the extremely remote forest areas in north-western Congo where the outbreak began.

"What this is telling us is the response (the WHO's vaccination program) is having an impact in those two locations", said Salama.

The focus now is on rural isolated communities in the Iboko health zone which will present logistical and other challenges.

In contrast to previous Ebola outbreaks, health workers have moved quickly to halt the spread of the virus by vaccinating everybody who has had contact with Ebola patients, and everybody who has had contact with those primary contacts.

An AP report Friday quoted DRC's health ministry saying another Ebola case had been confirmed even as the pace of new cases slows down. It's the identification and follow-up of all people who may have come into contact with a person infected with the infectious disease.

Phase 1 of the vaccination campaign, a plan to protect urban centers and towns, has "gone well", said Salama.

The Ministry of Health, together with the World Health Organization (WHO), Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), and other global organizations, have been carrying out a vaccination campaign in the three areas for the past two weeks, and about 1,400 people have already been vaccinated. This is the DRC's ninth Ebola outbreak since 1976 when the hemorrhagic fever was first identified.

On Monday, the Ministry of Health approved the use of these experimental treatments, some used on patients in past outbreaks, during the current outbreak.

"The outbreak is ongoing, particularly in and around Iboko", he said.

"We're cautiously optimistic but there's a lot of very tough work to do in phase two before we say that we're on the top of this outbreak and we've learned the hard way in the past never to underestimate Ebola", Mr Salama said.

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