Africa, 27 August 2014 – A three-day workshop organized by the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) aimed at strengthening Africa’s defences against the Ebola outbreak is underway with health experts from Botswana, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Namibia, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
The first in a series of preparedness and response workshops began on Tuesday in Brazzaville, the capital of the Republic of Congo, with Dr. Deo Nshimirimana from the WHO Regional Office for Africa saying that “despite efforts being made to control the Ebola virus disease (EVD), the outbreak was continuing and the number of cases and deaths increasing, thus constituting a threat for all African countries and the world.”
“The EVD outbreak is now not only a health problem, it is threat to the economy and development of our countries as well, and we need to expedite efforts to quickly control the situation,” he said in a press release issued by WHO.
The three-day workshop brings together more than 40 Disease Prevention and Control Officers; Clinicians and Infection Control Officers; as well as Social Mobilization, Health Education and Communication experts from 10 countries.
Participants will build their capacity to control EVD, including through surveillance and data management; infection prevention and control; case management; laboratory sample collection and transportation; and social mobilization and proper use of Personal Protection Equipment.
Since the start of the outbreak, WHO and its partners have deployed more than 450 people to the four affected countries: Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria. Experts deployed include field coordinators, clinicians, epidemiologists, infection control and prevention specialists, logisticians and data managers, communication specialists, medical anthropologists and social mobilizers.
Meanwhile, WHO said it had been notified yesterday by the Ministry of Health of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) of an outbreak of EVD in the country’s Equateur Province. The case involved a pregnant woman from a village who butchered a bush animal that had been killed and given to her by her husband. She became ill with symptoms of EVD and died on 11 August of a then-unidentified haemorrhagic fever.
Between 28 July and 18 August 2014, a total of 24 suspected cases of haemorrhagic fever, including 13 deaths, have been identified.
Samples have been sent to laboratories in DRC’s capital, Kinshasa, and in Gabon for confirmation of Ebola and to identify the strain found in the DRC. The index case and the 80 contacts have no history of travel to the Ebola-affected countries in West Africa or history of contact with individuals from the affected areas. At this time, WHO says it is believed that the outbreak in DRC is unrelated to the ongoing outbreak in West Africa.
WHO is monitoring the situation with the Government of DRC and awaiting confirmation of the disease strain from the laboratories. A rapid response team is poised to deploy and assist DRC, if needed. This is the seventh Ebola outbreak in the DRC since 1976.
The UN Special Representative in the DRC, Martin Kobler, today tweeted: “All the UN family in the DRC is actively supporting the Government to mitigate the impact of the Ebola outbreak.”
Also on social media, WHO continued to try to set the record straight by reporting facts and dispelling rumours. For example, it tweeted: “L’oignon, la noix de kola, ou l’eau salée sont de FAUX remèdes contre l’Ebola.” (Onions, cola nuts and salt water are FALSE remedies to combat Ebola.)
And WHO Director-General Margaret Chan, speaking at a health and climate change conference in Geneva, said she was aware of speculation that climate change may influence the frequency of outbreaks of Ebola virus disease, but she emphasized that: “We have no evidence that this is the case. Wild animals, notably fruit bats and monkeys, are implicated in the start of most Ebola outbreaks.”