Kinshasa, Sept 25, 2019 (AFP) - The UN health agency on Wednesday said it would carry out an emergency vaccination campaign in six DR Congo provinces to counter an outbreak of measles that has killed 3,600 since the start of the year. Authorities have registered more than 183,800 suspected cases of the disease, preventable with a vaccine, from the start of the year until September 17, the World Health Organization said. It said 3,667 people had died in the outbreak, most of them children. That is more than the number who have died in an outbreak of Ebola in eastern parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The campaign aims to vaccinate around 825,000 children in 24 regions, over a period of nine days, the agency said. "The DR Congo is facing this situation because a lot of children don't get routine vaccinations," WHO representative Deo Nshimirimana said in a statement. In the country's east, Ebola has claimed more than 2,100 lives since erupting last August.
Measles is a highly-contagious disease caused by a virus that attacks mainly children. The most serious complications include blindness, brain swelling, diarrhoea, and severe respiratory infections. Last year, cases more than doubled to almost 350,000 from 2017, according to the WHO, amid a rise in "anti-vaxxer" sentiment in some countries that can afford the vaccine, and lagging resources for the preventative measure in poor nations.
Date: Mon, 23 Sep 2019 09:13:24 +0200 (METDST)
Geneva, Sept 23, 2019 (AFP) - The Democratic Republic of the Congo is to introduce a second vaccine next month to combat the Ebola virus, which has killed more than 2,100 people in the country, the World Health Organization said Monday. The announcement came as the aid group Doctors Without Borders (MSF) accused the WHO of rationing the first Ebola vaccine in the DRC. "The health authorities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have announced plans to introduce a second experimental Ebola vaccine, manufactured by Johnson & Johnson, from mid-October," the global health body said in a statement. "This vaccine, which is given as a 2-dose course, 56 days apart, will be provided under approved protocols to targeted at-risk populations in areas that do not have active Ebola transmission as an additional tool to extend protection against the virus."
Matshidiso Moeti, WHO's Regional Director for Africa, said the second vaccine "will help ensure that we have potentially an additional tool to prevent the expansion of the outbreak and also a potential tool to protect populations before outbreaks hit areas at risk." The ongoing Ebola outbreak is the second-worst one in history after more than 11,000 people were killed in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia between 2014 and 2016. The WHO said last week that as of September 17, DRC had registered a total of 3,145 cases of Ebola since the outbreak began over a year ago, including 2,103 deaths. It has declared the Ebola epidemic a "public health emergency of international concern". Around 225,000 people have received the Ebola vaccine manufactured by German pharma giant Merck since August 8, 2018.
- 'Insufficient' - But the MSF said earlier Monday that "this number remains largely insufficient". "One of the main problems currently is the fact that in practice the vaccine is rationed by the WHO and that too few people at risk are protected today," MSF said in a statement. The WHO denied limiting the availability of the drug, saying it was doing "everything possible" to end the epidemic.
The UN's health agency has been pushing for the introduction of the second vaccine, but the DRC health ministry under former minister Oly Ilunga had resisted such a move, citing the risks of introducing a new product in communities where mistrust of Ebola responders is already high. Ilunga stepped down on July 22 after being replaced as the head of the country's Ebola response effort. He has since been charged with embezzling funds allotted for the Ebola fight, according to his lawyers who reject the allegations saying accounts prove that public funds were used "exclusively" for the anti-Ebola effort. WHO Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, praised the latest decision by DRC authorities, who he said "have once again shown leadership and their determination to end this outbreak as soon as possible".
Date: Thu, 19 Sep 2019 22:12:24 +0200 (METDST)
Geneva, Sept 19, 2019 (AFP) - The World Health Organization warned Thursday that violence in north-eastern Democratic Republic of Congo had halted efforts to rein in Ebola in one area, even as the spread of the deadly virus intensified. The UN health agency said that as of Tuesday, DRC had registered a total of 3,145 cases of Ebola since the outbreak began in August 2018, including 2,103 deaths. And it warned that transmission appeared to be worsening, after DRC's hard-hit North Kivu and Ituri provinces registered 57 new confirmed Ebola cases in the week leading up to September 17, compared to 40 new cases a week earlier.
At the same time, WHO said, a number of "localised, minor security incidents" continue to mar the response to the outbreak, including impeding safe burials of the highly contagious bodies and the administering of vaccines around Mambasa and Komanda. Even more concerning was a four-day "major security incident" that erupted in Lwemba, in the Mandima health zone in the north-eastern Ituri province, last Friday in reaction to the Ebola death of a local healthcare worker. "Due to the violence that occurred during the incident, all activities have been suspended in the area until further notice," WHO said.
The UN health agency, which has declared the epidemic a "public health emergency of international concern", said the suspension was having "a serious impact on the response activities on the ground". "It could lead to gaps or delays in the reporting of new (Ebola) cases in this hotspot area," it cautioned. Such incidents, it said, highlighted the vital need for continued and proactive engagement with communities in impacted areas.
The ongoing Ebola outbreak is the second-worst one in history after more than 11,000 people were killed in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia between 2014 and 2016. But the containment efforts have been hindered from the start by conflict in eastern DRC, as well as attacks on medical teams tackling the haemorrhagic fever amid resistance within some communities to preventative measures, care facilities and safe burials.
More than 5600 measles cases were reported during the week ending 11 Aug  in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), including 141 deaths, from 23 of the 26 provinces of the country, according to the latest published data.
Since the beginning of the year , 155,460 total measles cases have been recorded. 1/3 of the health zones in the DRC have reported confirmed measles outbreaks. A nearly 2% case fatality rate, or 2953 deaths, has been reported. Nearly 60% of cases reported in 2019 have been notified from Tshopo, Lualaba, Kasai, and Haut-Lomami provinces.
Earlier this month [August 2019], the World Health Organization reported that globally in the 1st 6 months of 2019, reported measles cases are the highest they have been in any year since 2006. There have been almost 3 times as many cases reported to date in 2019 as there were at this same time last year .
[With 155 460 total measles cases in the DRC and nearly 3000 deaths, the humanitarian crisis in the country continues to build. - ProMED Mod.LK]
The Ebola virus disease (EVD) outbreak in North Kivu, South Kivu, and Ituri provinces in the Democratic Republic of the Congo continued this week with similar transmission intensity to the previous six weeks, with an average of 77 cases per week (Figure 1). In the past 21 days from 7 August through 27 August 2019, 66 health areas within 18 health zones reported new cases (Table 1, Figure 2). During this period, a total of 203 confirmed cases were reported, with the majority coming from the health zones of Beni (28%, n=57), Mandima (11%, n=22), and Kalunguta (11%, n=22). In addition, Mambasa continues to show signs of an emerging hotspot, with 16 reported cases in the past 21 days. The response continues to address these hotspots through early case detection and thorough investigation, strong contact identification and follow up, and engagement with the local communities.
Two additional cases have been reported in South Kivu’s Mwenga Health Zone, bringing the total to six cases since 15 August. These individuals are family members of one of the recent cases. Although this indicates two generations of local transmission within Mwenga, the new cases are individuals who were under surveillance, and they were able to quickly receive care when they became ill.
On 22 August, Nyiragongo Health Zone (which includes suburbs of Goma city) passed 21 days without additional confirmed cases detected, and all contacts completed the 21-day follow-up period. Surveillance and response activities within Goma city and surrounding areas will continue, as risks of further introduction of EVD from active areas remain high.
As of 27 August, a total of 2997 EVD cases were reported, including 2892 confirmed and 105 probable cases, of which 1998 cases died (overall case fatality ratio 67%). Of the total confirmed and probable cases, 58% (1740) were female, and 28% (842) were children aged less than 18 years. To date, 156 health workers have been infected.