While the world holds its breath, there are signs an outbreak of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of the Congo may be fading back. However, given the devastation and some 11,000 deaths caused by the 2014 outbreak in West Africa, the last thing the World Health Organization (WHO) is going to do is take this deadly hemorrhagic fever lightly.
“There are currently a total of five confirmed, three probable, and one suspected case,” the WHO reported on June 5, 2017.1 “Of these, four survived and four died, resulting in a case fatality rate of 50%. The confirmed and probable cases were reported from Nambwa (four confirmed and two probable), Ngayi (one probable) and Mabongo (one confirmed). The outbreak remains confined to the Likati Health Zone. … The affected area is remote and hard to reach, with limited communication and transport infrastructure.”
WHO modeling suggests the risk of further Ebola cases is “currently low but not negligible. …As of this reporting date, 76% of simulated scenarios predict no further cases in the next 30 days.”
As of the June 5 report, one previously suspect case had been confirmed as Ebola infected, the WHO reports. The date of onset of infection was April 29, 2017.
“This case was previously reported as a suspected case and is part of the known transmission chain,” the WHO said. “The contacts for this individual have already been followed up and graduated from the contact follow-up period. The date of the last confirmed case reported remains as 11 May 2017.”
One new suspected case was also reported in the June 5 update, and 15 case contacts are being followed up daily.
Ring of Fire
One grim gift of the last Ebola outbreak was the development of what is thought to be a highly effective vaccine. In a tactic similar to the one used to eradicate smallpox, WHO is considering vaccinating a “ring” of people around the affected area.
“The protocol for a possible ring vaccination has been formally approved by the national regulatory authority and Ethics Review Board of the Democratic Republic of the Congo,” WHO reports. “The government [of Congo] with support of WHO and other partners are working on detailed planning and readiness to offer access to the rVSV ZEBOV experimental/investigational vaccine, within the expanded access framework, with informed consent and in compliance with good clinical practice. Planning and readiness should be completed urgently to be able to rapidly initiate ring vaccination should an Ebola laboratory-confirmed case be identified outside already defined chains of transmission. The vaccine would be offered to contacts and contacts of contacts of a confirmed Ebola case, including healthcare workers and field laboratory workers.”
- WHO. Ebola Virus Disease. Democratic Republic of the Congo. External Situation Report 21. 05 June 2017: http://bit.ly/2s433O8.