Ebola outbreak in DR Congo

Wangata hospital in the city of Mbandaka where there have been seven cases of Ebola

USA health authorities said on Wednesday they were preparing to send an experimental Ebola treatment to the Democratic Republic of Congo for use in a clinical trial aimed at stemming an outbreak in the country that has spread to Mbandaka, a city of about 1.5 million people.

Three Ebola deaths have been confirmed since Congo's health ministry announced the current outbreak of the often lethal hemorrhagic fever on May 8.

In some cases, the virus is spread through contact with someone who has died from the disease.

Ebola responders in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are revealing more about local practices and community mistrust, which in some instances are hampering the actions needed to curb the spread of the disease in the country's outbreak hot spots.

Health officials have worked tirelessly in recent weeks to control the spread of the virus and keep an accurate tracing map on those people who have may have encountered those with the disease.

Its appearance in the northwestern river port city of Mbandaka this time gives it a potential clear shot at the capital Kinshasa, a chaotic city of more than 10 million inhabitants that lies downstream.

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"In previous outbreaks in DRC, community communication has proven to be crucial in terms of the effectiveness of the response to Ebola", said Yves Willemot, a UNICEF spokesman.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, Ebola virus was first discovered in 1976 near the Ebola River in what is now the DRC. Since April, the disease is thought to have killed at least 22 people and infected 30 more. People can get it through sexual contact, as well. A nurse also died in the village of Bikoro, the town near where the outbreak was first detected in early May, ministry spokeswoman Jessica Ilunga said. "There is massive population displacement, food insecurity and malnutrition, particularly in the east of the country, and multiple simultaneous outbreaks of cholera, of measles and recently of vaccine-derived poliovirus", a rare mutated strain. More than 7500 doses are available in Congo, WHO said on Monday, and another 8000 doses will be available in the coming days. "This is highly targeted ring vaccination where concerned or probable cases are identified and then each and every contact is traced and vaccinated, and then the contacts of those contacts are then traced and vaccinated, forming protective rings around that case - to protect the people themselves - the contacts, but also to prevent further community transmission". Also, the worldwide community and global health groups have stepped forward with $59.6 million in support for the DRC's outbreak, far exceeding the WHO's May 18 request of $26 million to support its activities.

"The detective work of epidemiology will make or break the response to this outbreak", Salama said. In particular, he emphasized the proximity of neighboring countries as a major challenge of the current outbreak. Central African Republic, which is nearest to the affected Congo province, is of the greatest concern and is a priority for WHO.

"All nine countries have initiated their readiness activities", Moeti said.

The US government has added $7 million to the initial $1 million it previously committed to fighting the virus in Congo, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar said on Tuesday.

Soon after the Ebola outbreak was declared May 8, World Health Organization Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and several associates went to the region to assess the situation.

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