Congolese doctor infected with Ebola in zone surrounded by militia

Olivia Acland  Reuters

According to the DRC's ministry of health yesterday, Ebola case counts held steady from the previous day, at 103 (76 confirmed). Of those, 63 were confirmed as Ebola after the afflicted patients died from the disease.

At the same briefing, Dr. Peter Salama, WHO Deputy Director-General of Emergency Preparedness and Response, said that the discovery of Ebola infection in the hard-to-reach part of eastern DRC could mark a "pivotal" point in the response to the deadly disease.

"More than 80% of cases are in and around Mangina. If we learn within 20 to 30 kilometer radius we glance the overwhelming majority of cases going on there", Salama acknowledged. "We know that radius contains an accessible population". This latest outbreak hit the Kivu Province in the Southern end of the vast country.

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The violence is particularly rampant in the so-called "triangle of death", between the towns of Eringeti, Mbau and Kamango, on the Uganda-DRC border, as well as in the towns of Beni, Oicha and Mavivi.

WHO and health experts reached Oicha with armed escort by MONUSCO troops this week from Beni along a road classified as a "red zone" in terms of insecurity, Salama said.

The area was surrounded by fighters from the Allied Democratic Forces, who he said posed "extremely serious security concerns". "We don't know if we are having all transmission chains identified", World Health Organization spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said during a news briefing in Geneva, Reuters reported last week (August 17). The 10 patients who have received mAb114 since August 11 are experiencing "positive evolution", the health ministry said.

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So far, a total of 14 healthcare workers have been infected during this outbreak, 1 of them fatally.

The latest Ebola outbreak occurred about one month after the Ebola outbreak that began in the DRC's Equateur Province in May ended.

Contacts finding and tracing are also working well, with 2,200 contacts now being followed in the six locations, and more 2,900 people have been vaccinated, including 21 rings around all of the 40 most recent cases.

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Salama also provided more details on the use of therapeutics in this outbreak. The first dose of Gilead Science's antiviral drug Remdesivir was administered on Tuesday (August 21), while the monoclonal antibody treatment mAb114 was deployed almost two weeks ago. More patients are expected to be given remdesivir, an experimental antiviral drug, in the next 2 days. Of 59 reported deaths, 32 have been confirmed as Ebola, according to the health ministry. He said community outreach has been strengthened in that village and vaccinations have resumed.

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