In 2018 there was a new outbreak of the Ebola virus in the Democratic Republic of Congo in central Africa. That outbreak has now reportedly reached a crisis level that has international health officials gravely concerned about the potential of the virus spreading far beyond the borders of not just the DRC, but the continent of Africa as well.
The Ebola outbreak in the DRC has already claimed the lives of at least 1,665 people, The U.K. Express reported. Though great efforts have been made to isolate and contain the outbreak in the remote regions of the country, a pastor infected with the virus was recently discovered in the major city of Goma.
Goma is a major trade and transportation hub in central Africa that is home to millions of people and has been dubbed the “gateway” from the region to the rest of Africa and the entire globe.
Director-General of the World Health Organization, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said the discovery of an Ebola case in Goma was potentially a “game-changer” that could undermine the ongoing efforts to prevent the further spread of the deadly epidemic.
At a recent “high-level” meeting of WHO officials in the DRC, the organization declared the Ebola outbreak to be a “public health emergency of international concern,” given the “concerning the geographical expansion of the virus.” That and other pertinent information were shared in a thread of tweets from the official WHO Twitter account.
BREAKING NEWS: The #Ebola outbreak in #DRC constitutes a public health emergency of international concern, citing concerning geographical expansion of the virus: WHO Director-General, @DrTedros following the IHR Emergency Committee’s recommendation #alert
— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) July 17, 2019
No travel or trade restrictions were advised as part of the alert, though health officials intended to step-up the ongoing efforts in the DRC and neighboring countries to combat the disease through thorough screenings and vaccinations when necessary.
“The identification of the case in Goma could potentially be a game-changer in this epidemic,” Dr. Tedros said. “Goma is a city of two million people, near the border with Rwanda, and is a gateway to the region and the world.”
“We are confident in the measures we are put in place and hope that we will see no further transmission of Ebola in Goma,” he added. “Nevertheless, we cannot be too careful.”
Since the DRC outbreak began in 2018, some 71 million travelers have been screened for Ebola and 161,000 vaccines have been administered.
Dr. Tedros said those measures have already “prevented a much larger emergency” in the region.
“Although the risk of spread within DRC and in the region remains very high, we should not underestimate the magnitude of what has been achieved so far,” he added.
The doctor revealed that one of the biggest impediments to the anti-Ebola efforts, and most unfortunate, was violence committed against health workers trying to stop the epidemic in its tracks. At least two community health workers have been murdered thus far, and others have been attacked.
The infectious disease program manager for the WHO’s regional office in eastern DRC, Dr. Harouna Djingarey, said the launch on Monday of a vaccination program in Goma was “vital” to the efforts of stopping the spread of the virus.
“It’s the door of this region to the rest of the world,” Dr. Harouna said of Goma. “From here, you can fly to go to everywhere in the world. If we don’t have the control over the contacts, some high-risk contacts may fly, take a plane and go somewhere.”
The concern that people infected with the virus could travel from Goma, whether unwittingly or with malice, to spread the infectious virus in other major cities anywhere in the world is very real.
Hopefully, the screeners and vaccinators and other international and local health officials can prevent that from happening.
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