Mains Paper : 2 | International relations.
Prelims level: Ebola disease
Mains level: How Congo learnt from the 2014 Ebola crisis and is dealing with the situation this year?
• The Ebola virus returned to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)
• The World Health Organisation (WHO) announced, on July 24, that the Ebola outbreak had ended there.
• The recent outbreak is the10th in DRC the since the virus was discovered in 1976.
• At least four samples have tested positive and the majority of cases are in Mangina, about 30 km from Beni city, a densely populated area.
• The outbreak in North Kivu announced on August 1, appears to be a fresh and unrelated one, having occurred about 2,500 km away from Bikoro in Equateur Province where the last outbreak was first reported this May.
• The detection of the virus is an indicator of the proper functioning of the surveillance system.
• Ebola is a constant threat in the DRC. What adds to our confidence in the country’s ability to respond is the transparency they have displayed once again… we will fight this one as we did the last.
Contrast in responses
• After the last outbreak in May WHO released $1 million from its Contingency Fund for Emergencies.
• Its multidisciplinary team began an active search for cases and people who had come in contact with those who were infected.
• Treatment facilities and mobile laboratories were set up and the community educated on safe practices.
• In 2014, when Ebola had struck three West African countries (Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone), these measures were delayed and were responsible for the spread and high mortality.
• The pro-active measures this time, 14 laboratory-confirmed cases were reported about 10 days after the outbreak was declared.
• Most were in remote, hard-to-reach areas, which made it a challenge in terms of surveillance, case detection and confirmation, contact tracing, and access to vaccines and therapeutics.
• In Mbandaka city with a population of 1.2 million population, changed the risk perception completely.
• In the 2014 WHO’s Emergency Committee convened only after some 1,000 people had died. This time around, it convened 10 days after the outbreak was declared on May 8.
• The committee has not viewed it to be a ‘Public Health Emergency of International Concern’, which is a formal WHO declaration. There are two main reasons for this.
• The “rapid and comprehensive” response by the government, WHO and other partners. According to an editorial in The Lancet, the median time from illness to hospitalisation this time in Congo was just one day. In contrast, in the 2014 outbreak, the average time in West Africa was 5 days; in Congo, it was 4.7 days.
• The availability of VSV-EBOV, a vaccine, developed by Canada’s National Microbiology Laboratory.
• WHO and the Ministry of Health set up a specialized cold chain to store the vaccine.