By Akanimo Sampson
THE World Health Organisation (WHO), an agency of the United Nations, has warned that the ongoing Ebola outbreak is posing a significant risk of spread to nine countries bordering the Democratic Republic of the Congo on the basis of proximity to the current outbreak and the current capacity of their health systems to cope with the disease.
The nine countries are Angola, Burundi, Central African Republic, Republic of Congo, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.
WHO at the moment is supporting the nine countries to scale up their national emergency preparedness and response capacities.
Just this past May 8, the Ministry of Health of the Democratic Republic of the Congo declared an outbreak of Ebola virus disease (EVD). This is the ninth outbreak of Ebola virus disease over the last four decades in the country, with the most recent outbreak occurring in May 2017.
Since the last Disease Outbreak News on May 17, an additional 14 cases with four deaths have been reported. On May 21, eight new suspected cases were reported, including six cases in Iboko Health Zone and two cases in Wangata Health Zone. On May 20, seven cases (reported previously) in Iboko Health Zone have been confirmed.
As at May 21, a cumulative total of 58 Ebola virus disease cases, including 27 deaths have been reported from three health zones in Equateur Province. The total includes 28 confirmed, 21 probable and nine suspected cases from the three health zones: Bikoro (n=29; ten confirmed and 19 probable), Iboko (n=22; fourteen confirmed, two probable and six suspected cases) and Wangata (n=7; four confirmed and three suspected case).
Of the four confirmed cases in Wangata, two have an epidemiological link with a probable case in Bikoro from April 2018. As of May 21, over 600 contacts have been identified and are being followed-up and monitored field investigations are ongoing to determine the index case. Three health care workers were among the 58 cases reported.
Based on the assessment of the situation, WHO is working to ensure that the nine countries at risk, are operationally ready to prevent the importation of cases, implement risk mitigation, detection and response measures for Ebola.
Specifically, the objective of the plan is to help the countries to assess and identify their existing capacities as well as their gaps, to prevent, rapidly detect, investigate and respond to Ebola. The plan also provides countries with a minimum standard package of what needs to be in place to respond to a first Ebola case; and to continuously monitor their preparedness and readiness.
Current Ebola Preparedness Activities And Next Steps
Ministries of Health, partners and WHO are already supporting the implementation of Ebola preparedness actions in all nine countries. This includes Preparedness Strengthening Team missions to assess the state of preparedness, training of rapid response teams, establishment of inter-sectoral coordination mechanisms, strengthening of community-based surveillance systems, laboratory capacities, community engagement and sensitisation, reinforcement of points of entry and the establishment of screening, and the identification and rehabilitation of health facilities to manage EVD cases, among other activities.
Through this plan, WHO will closely work with the Ministries of Health and wider government stakeholders, the intersectoral and interagency mechanisms and partners and will leverage the emergency mechanisms in place including Emergency Medical Teams, Health Clusters, and GOARN.
WHO is monitoring the implementation of preparedness and readiness activities across the 9 countries.
The estimated budget for the Ebola preparedness and readiness for WHO over nine months is $15,555,000 million. The resource requirements by country include technical expertise and other support that will be provided by the regional and headquarters offices.