19 Dead, Dozens More Sick in Virus ‘Outbreak’ in 11th Largest Country

By Jack Phillips

The Democratic Republic of Congo said that there were 39 suspected, probable, or confirmed cases of Ebola between April 4 and May 13, which included 19 deaths, the World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed on Monday, May 14.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said that the FDA is monitoring the situation “very closely,” CNBC reported Tuesday. He said that health officials are trying to handle the outbreak “in a very different posture.”

“I think the world is more galvanized, the WHO has stepped in very aggressively and very early,” he added. “We have therapeutics available right now, including the potential for a vaccine, so we’re differently armed than the last time we had a global crisis related to Ebola.”

About 393 people who were identified as contacts of Ebola patients were being investigated. Information about the outbreak in Bikoro, Iboko, and Wangata health zones in Equateur province was still limited, WHO added in the statement.

At present, the outbreak did not meet the criteria for declaring a “public health event of international concern,” which would trigger the formation of an emergency WHO committee.

According to the WHO statement, there was a case fatality rate of nearly 50 percent. Three healthcare workers are reportedly also sickened with the disease.

“Response teams on the ground are in the process of verifying information on reported cases. Case numbers will be revised as further information becomes available,” the statement reads.

An Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014 was the deadliest occurrence of the disease, killing more than 11,300 people, officials have said.

WHO said that the Ministry of Health in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is coordinating the response, and WHO is working with the agency. The agency is now deploying 50 public health experts to support the Ministry of Health with various “response activities,” the statement added.

“Information about the extent of the outbreak is still limited and investigations are ongoing. The cases are being reported from remote locations that are difficult to access. However, the proximity of the affected area to the Congo River, which links to the Republic of the Congo and the Central African Republic, increases the risk of cases occurring in neighboring countries. Currently, WHO considers the public health risk to be high at the national level, moderate at the regional level, and low at the international level. As further information becomes available, the risk assessment will be reviewed,” the health organization added.

 

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