Health, Government - DR Congo Ebola Still A World Threat
The United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) says the deadly Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo is still an "urgent" global health emergency.
Officials said the second-largest Ebola outbreak in history will likely remain classified as a global threat for at least the next three months.
That's not to say that medical teams haven't made a great deal of progress. WHO's most recent update says that were only 15 confirmed cases tallied in the week prior to publication, down from a peak of 130 per week back in April. Hot spots do spring up in the DR Congo: More than 50 new infections were reported from late September through mid-October in the Biakato Mine area, where both legal and illegal mining operations take place.
"The area is a very complex area, it's a very volatile area. We have made very significant progress, the number of cases have plummeted," said Adhanom Ghebreyesus of the DR Congo Heath ministry. "But if there is insecurity incidents, we may lose what we have gained so far."
Officials say there have been 3,227 confirmed or probable Ebola infections and 2,154 deaths since the outbreak began in August 2018. The fatality rate is still high at 67 percent.
If health care workers can get to a patient in time, new treatments for Ebola are showing signs of success. Two highly effective treatments - infusions of antibodies - work only if they are given soon after a patient is infected. A vaccine a developed by Merck - Ervabo - has been used on more than 230,000 people. Last week, the European Medicines Agency recommended conditional marketing authorization for the jab.
"This positive opinion represents important progress towards licensure of a vaccine to provide protection from Ebola virus disease to people in areas affected by the Ebola Zaire virus," said Dr. Roger Perlmutter, president of Merck Research Laboratories.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is also reviewing a licensure application for Ervebo, and will announce its decision by mid-March of 2020.