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WHO sees Congo’s Ebola outbreak lasting 3-4 months at least

by UNTV News   |   Posted on Friday, October 12th, 2018

Congolese officials and the World Health Organization officials wear protective suits as they participate in a training against the Ebola virus near the town of Beni in North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of Congo, August 11, 2018. REUTERS/Samuel Mambo

Democratic Republic of Congo’s Ebola outbreak is expected to last several months and could spread at any time to Uganda or Rwanda, which are well prepared but have not approved the use of a vaccine, the World Health Organization said on Thursday (October 11).

But the most concerning area is the city of Beni in Congo’s North Kivu province, where dozens of people who may have been exposed to the deadly disease are hiding from health workers, emergency response chief Peter Salama told Reuters.

The outbreak has now caused 194 cases and 122 deaths, and two-thirds of cases in the past month have been in and around Beni, where the Ebola response was disrupted last month by a spate of attacks by armed groups and a period of official mourning.

The next few days will tell if the recent wave of infections in Beni is over, he said, depending on the security situation and the local community’s willingness to support the response.

Many of the new cases are already known to health workers as people who have had contact with recorded Ebola patients. On average, 80-90 percent of people with potential Ebola exposure is being monitored on a daily basis.

But a smaller number, around 40 or more, are “actively avoiding follow-up” and have not been found for days on end, increasing the risk of the disease spreading, Salama said. More than 90 percent of those people were in Beni, he added.

Some Ebola victims are suspicious of health workers, fearing that hospitalization is a death sentence – despite the obvious risks of missing out on treatment – while families believe that bodies may not be returned for traditional burials.

Local authorities in Beni have threatened people who harbor suspected patients with three-month jail sentences. — Reuters

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Congo’s Ebola outbreak to last at least six more months, WHO says

by UNTV News   |   Posted on Wednesday, November 14th, 2018

Health workers treating Ebola patient in treatment unit | REUTERS

The Ebola outbreak in northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo, which has already killed more than 200 people, is expected to last until mid-2019, a senior World Health Organization official said on Tuesday (November 13).

WHO emergency response chief Peter Salama said the WHO is “planning on at least another six months before we can declare this outbreak over.”

The outbreak in Congo’s North Kivu province has caused 333 confirmed and probable cases of the deadly virus and is now the worst in Congo’s history.

The location of the disease is perhaps the most difficult the WHO has ever encountered, due to a dense and mobile local population, insecurity caused by two armed groups, and its spread by transmission in health centers, Salama said.

One of the major drivers of the spread of the disease was due to people visiting the several hundred “tradi-modern” health centers in the town of Beni, he said. — Reuters

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Poor air quality in India’s capital triggers health concerns

by UNTV News   |   Posted on Monday, November 12th, 2018

 

New Delhi in smog | REUTERS

Pollution levels in New Delhi, the capital of India, are over 50 times more than the allowed limits, raising people’s concerns over health especially for children.

Four-year-old Avyan suffers from severe wheezing and chest infections, which often leading to multiple hospitalizations. Although he is under the protection of air purifiers and anti-pollution masks, his mother still worries about his health condition because the pollution in the city shows no sign of improving.

“Whenever I put a mask on him for doing the nebulizer, every time some part of me inside me cries. Because once I am pumping him with all those strong medicines, just to manage those symptoms, the other is his body really needs that to survive in this environment. So we would want him to have a very nice happy healthy childhood, but it’s sad that we are not able to give him that, just because we’re in a place which has so much of pollution,” said Anchal Garg Karanth, mother of Avyan.

Recent studies have shown that one in every three children in Delhi has impaired lung function according to the Center of Science and Environment. Doctors also say newborn babies in Delhi take in gulps of polluted air equivalent to smoking 25 cigarettes on the first day of their lives.

According to the World Health Organization, over 100,000 children died below the age of five due to the air pollution in India in 2016, which is the record high in the world. Children are particularly vulnerable to bad air because they breathe more rapidly than adults and absorb twice as many pollutants.

“If you are not oxygenating very well, your cognitive function in terms of behavior, intelligence, has a major impact, especially if it happens in the younger years because that is when the neurological system is really developing. Other than that, any chronic lung issue can impact the cardiovascular system as well,” said Anupama Gupta, a pediatrician.

Delhi’s smog is said to be a toxic mix of vehicular pollution, construction dust, and fumes from crops burnt by farmers in neighboring states. This year, the Delhi government banned all construction, digging and excavation work when the pollution levels started rising. The government might also act by taking private cars off of Delhi’s roads if pollution levels deteriorate further.

“In emergency response, you are not really solving the problem, but what you are doing is you are stopping from adding more where the situation is already very bad. But the more fundamental solution will come when you are doing a round-the-year plan and with stringent implementation of that plan,” said Anumita Roy Chowdhary, an environmentalist.

The Indian government is currently working on a national clean air plan and has suggested it aims to reduce air pollution by 30 percent in the next five years. — Reuters

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WHO extremely concerned about Ebola ‘perfect storm’ in Congo

by UNTV News   |   Posted on Wednesday, September 26th, 2018

 

FILE PHOTO: The World Health Organization (WHO) logo is pictured at the entrance of its headquarters in Geneva, January 25, 2015. REUTERS/PIERRE ALBOUY

The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Tuesday (September 25) that the Ebola outbreak in the northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo could deteriorate rapidly because of attacks by armed groups, community resistance and the geographic spread of the disease.

“We are now extremely concerned that several factors may be coming together over the next weeks and months to create a potential perfect storm,” WHO’s head of emergency response Peter Salama told a news conference in Geneva.

At least 100 people have died in the outbreak, out of 150 cases in North Kivu and Ituri provinces.

The response was at a critical juncture, and although the weekly number of new cases has fallen from about 40 to about 10 in the past few weeks and more than 11,700 people have been vaccinated, there were major obstacles ahead, Salama said.

Attacks by armed opposition groups had increased in severity and frequency, especially attributed to the Alliance of Democratic Forces, most dramatically an attack that killed 21 in the city of Beni, where WHO’s operation is based.

The city has declared a “Ville Morte”, a period of mourning until at least Friday (September 28), obliging WHO to suspend its operations.

On Monday (September 24), 80 percent of Ebola contacts and three suspected cases in and around Beni could not be reached for disease monitoring.

Pockets of “reluctance, refusal, and resistance” to accept Ebola vaccination were generating many of the new cases, Salama said. — Reuters

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