ADDIS ABABA: Over 1,700 people have died after contracting the Ebola virus in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the African Center for Disease Prevention Control (Africa CDC) announced on Friday. “It is the second-largest outbreak of Ebola,” CDC Africa Director John Nkengasong told reporters at African Union headquarters in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.
The news followed the World Health Organization on Wednesday declaring the Ebola outbreak in DRC “a public health emergency of international concern.” Nkengasong said there have been more than 2,500 confirmed cases of Ebola that mainly struck the Northern Kivu region and Goma, a city of over 1 million people near the border with Rwanda. On the magnitude and threat of the current outbreak, he called it a major one after the 2013-14 outbreak of the virus in Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia which took the lives of more than 10,000 people.
According to Nkengasong, the nature of the virus is changing. “Ebola is showing up in big cities and is showing up more frequently.” The African Union needs $40 million for its Ebola response, he said, adding that the response from the international community has so far been inadequate. “We need a strong African solidarity to come to play.” He said the Africa CDC has set up six labs and trained 469 health care workers for the Ebola response, while 41 experts have been deployed to areas struck by the virus.
In response to the WHO declaring the outbreak “a public health emergency of international concern,” Nkengasong said this highlights the extraordinary nature of the outbreak. “It is serious and has a potential to cross beyond [borders] and has a regional and international effect from the public health perspective.” He added: “It is an important declaration because it changes the way the Africa CDC and the African Union support the DRC responding to the outbreak.” “We will be working with the government of the DRC very closely in order to better coordinate our efforts with partners that are already in the field, including the WHO,” he explained. (AA)