WHO Preps for \'Worst Case Scenario\' in Ebola Outbreak

 Alexa Lardieri
  14th-May-2018

THE WORLD HEALTH Organization is preparing for the "worst case scenario" with the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo. So far there are 32 suspected, probable and confirmed cases of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and at least 18 people have died, according to the WHO.

The outbreak was declared by the country's health ministry Tuesday, but cases have been reported from April 4 through Wednesday. Three involve healthcare workers, one of whom has died.

"We are very concerned, and we are planning for all scenarios, including the worst case scenario," WHO's Deputy Director-General for Emergency Preparedness and Response, Peter Salama, told reporters in Geneva, according to Agence-France Presse.

According to the WHO, the current epidemic is located in the Bikoro health zone, located in Equateur province, in western DRC and on the border with the Republic of Congo. AFP reported that Salama told the media this region is extremely remote with a lack of adequate infrastructure, making it difficult to reach.

"Access is extremely difficult ... It is basically 15 hours by motorbike from the closest town," Salama said, AFP reported.

However, the WHO has assembled a team and is preparing to send 40 additional epidemiology, logistics and contact tracing specialists to the area in the upcoming week. The organization is also attempting to set up an "air bridge" to help bring in supplies, according to AFP.

Salama told reporters the United Nations Health Organization also is preparing to have a mobile lab operating in the area this weekend. The response to the Ebola outbreak is going to be "extremely challenging and very costly," Salama said.

WHO is waiting for approval from the DRC authorities to begin a vaccination campaign in the area, using an experimental vaccine.

According to WHO, the overall risk at the national level is considered high. The overall risk at the regional level is "considered moderate because of the proximity of the Congo river, which links with both capitals of the Republic of the Congo and the Central African Republic."

WHO reports the province of Equateur has an estimated population of 2.5 million people and the Bikoro health zone has a population of around 163,000 people. The organization also states the DRC has had eight Ebola outbreaks in the last four decades, with the most recent occurring in May 2017.

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