Congo shows 'strong progress' in quelling Ebola outbreak

Congo shows 'strong progress' in quelling Ebola outbreak

In contrast to previous Ebola outbreaks, health workers have moved quickly to halt the spread of the virus by vaccinating everybody who has had contact with Ebola patients, and everybody who has had contact with those primary contacts.

UNICEF said June 5 that almost 300,000 people had been screened since the Ebola outbreak was confirmed May 8 by the World Health Organization.

The forested terrain is so rough that even four-wheel-drive vehicles can't reach the area, which has no electricity, WHO's emergency response chief Peter Salama told reporters in Geneva.

"It's stabilising. We're optimistic, cautiously optimistic", World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told Reuters.

Congo's health ministry late Thursday announced a new confirmed Ebola case, bringing the total to 38, including 13 deaths.

"It's extremely likely the vaccine has had a positive effect", said Salama, basing his assessment on the fact that in Mbandaka there have been no confirmed cases since mid-May and a large portion of contacts have been vaccinated there.

Archbishop Fridolin Ambongo Besungu, co-adjutor archbishop of Kinshasa who previously served in the Diocese of Mbandaka-Bikoro, where the outbreak occurred, chose to suspend administering sacraments to protect churchgoers from contracting the disease.

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"Phase one, to protect urban centers and towns, has gone well and we can be cautiously optimistic". This is the first time such treatments are available in the midst of an Ebola outbreak.

The new case is in the remote Iboko health zone in Congo's northwest.

The disease, which is transmitted by direct contact with the blood and body fluids of infected people or animals, causes severe bleeding and can have a mortality rate of 90%.

"This is a major logistical and boots-on-the-ground epidemiological endeavor now", Salama said, adding that work there will go on for weeks.

On the front lines of the outbreak, health officials use a tool called contact tracing to break the chain of transmission of the Ebola virus.

But the Congolese health ministry said on Wednesday that "no experimental treatment has yet been given to hospitalised patients". Iboko, the most rural of the outbreak sites, was the focus of Salama's briefing.

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