Ebola hot spot shifts amid urgent call for funds

Personal protective equipment Ebola workers
Personal protective equipment Ebola workers

UNMEER, Simon Ruf / Flickr cc

Over the last 2 days, the number of people infected in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) Ebola outbreak rose by 23, and though cases have tapered off some in the main epicenters, the World Health Organization (WHO) today reported a worrying spike in activity in Mabalako, one of the smaller hot spots.

In other developments, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD, who just returned from his ninth trip the DRC since the outbreak began, called for bipartisan political cooperation in the DRC to end the outbreak and appealed to the global community for more money to support the response.

Cases top 2,200

Yesterday the DRC's health ministry reported 9 new cases, and in an update today it reported 14 new illnesses: 8 in Beni, 7 in Mabalako, 3 in Kalunguta, 2 in Mandima, and 1 each in Alimbongo, Katwa, and Musienene. The new confirmations raise the outbreak total to 2,204 cases. Health officials are still investigating 349 suspected infections.

In its latest two daily updates the ministry said yesterday that 20 more people died from Ebola, 6 in community settings and 14 in Ebola treatment centers. The outbreak's fatality count now stands at 1,479. Officials are tracking 349 suspected cases.

Concern over hospital infections, reintroductions

Though infection levels have dropped in Katwa and Butembo, there's been a marked increase in Mabalako health zone, especially in Alyoa health area, the WHO said today in its weekly snapshot of outbreak activity.

Along with Mabalako's rise in activity, healthcare worker and hospital-related infections were reported, underscoring the need to strengthen infection prevention and control practices in the outbreak region's health facilities.

The WHO also raised concerns about Ebola reintroductions in Bunia, Lubero, Komanda, and Rwampara, which highlights ongoing threats to those locations and a strain on already limited security resources that responders need to do their work.

In Uganda, more than 100 contacts of the earlier imported cases have been identified, and so far all are asymptomatic. As of Jun 19, the WHO said 456 people in Uganda have been vaccinated with VSV-EBOV, Merck's unlicensed vaccine.

Call for bipartisan, financial support

During recent meeting in Kinshasa, Tedros met with the DRC's prime minister, opposition leaders, religious officials, and other partners, the WHO said in a statement yesterday. He also traveled to Butembo, which has been one of the main epicenters, to meet with community and religious leaders, business representatives, and nongovernmental organization representatives.

Other stops included Katwa, to launch a new vaccination protocol to reach more people, including pregnant women, breastfeeding women, and children over 6 months old. Also, in the wake of a recent trio of imported cases, he visited top government and health officials in Uganda.

Regarding the situation in the DRC, Tedros said political cooperation must cross party lines and borders. "Bipartisan political leadership in DRC is the only way that communities will eventually understand the threat of Ebola and take ownership in ending the outbreak."

Also, he strongly appealed to other countries across the world to support the health responders in the DRC. Tedros said the WHO needs $98 million to fund the response, but it has received only $44 million, leaving a $54 million gap, a shortfall he said must immediate be addressed.

"If the funds are not received, WHO will be unable to sustain the response at the current scale," he said, adding that other partners face funding gaps and that response decisions risk being driven by financial capacity rather than operational needs.

See also:

Jun 19 DRC update

Jun 20 DRC update

Jun 19 WHO statement

Jun 20 WHO statement

WHO online Ebola dashboard

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