• How Bad is the 2017 Ebola Outbreak?

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How Bad is the 2017 Ebola Outbreak?

Jun 23 2017

It’s not often that the world is hit with a global health scare. But when it happens, the World Health Organization (WHO) is quick to react. Last month, suspected cases of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo spiked, and prompted the organisation to declare a national outbreak. Multidisciplinary teams confirmed just a handful of cases, though nine patients displayed haemorrhagic symptoms indicative of the virus and three died as a result.

Ebola hits the Likati Health Zone

The outbreak is thought to have originated in the remote Likati Health Zone in Congo’s Bas Uele Province. Perched high in the north of the country, it borders the Central African Republic. Both the Health Ministry and WHO were swift to respond, mobilising experts and biologists to contain the outbreak. Their efforts soon paid off, with Congolese Health Minister Oly Ilunga Kalenga confirming that the outbreak has since been contained.

“At this stage, we can say that the spread of the epidemic has been brought under control and that’s thanks to the quality of national and international experts dispatched to the zone,” says Kalenga.

While the World Health Organization has not yet confirmed the minister’s assurances that the Ebola outbreak is under control, it has assured the world that its partners are “rapidly and effectively” coordinating a response.

No outbreak too small

It may seem like a small scare, but according to co-discoverer of Ebola Peter Piot, “All epidemics start with one case.” The minor outbreak in the Congo was the first to materialise since the nationwide epidemic that claimed the lives of more than 11,000 people in West Africa two years ago.

Sweeping through Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and other West African nations, it was the most widespread outbreak of Ebola in history. It caused mass loss of life and socioeconomic disruption, with human-to-human transmission pegged as the key cause of the outbreak.

West African outbreak spurs global action

The 2014 was devastating, but it did spur global action from the medical sphere. Now, bona fide results are starting to materialise. In Canada, a phase 1 randomised controlled trial has found a potential Ebola virus disease (EVD) vaccine, with patients showing good toleration and high antibody counts six months after immunisation. It’s a huge step forward for the fight against Ebola, with the Public Health Agency of Canada confirming that it has 300,000 doses of the vaccine stockpiled and ready to deploy should another outbreak hit.

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