Congo rolls out trial Ebola treatment as death toll rises | News | DW | 26.08.2018
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Congo rolls out trial Ebola treatment as death toll rises

The Health Ministry has said two people who received an experimental Ebola treatment have recovered. Yet officials are worried as the virus continues to spread into conflict areas.

The death toll from an outbreak of the Ebola virus in eastern Congo has risen to 67 people, health officials said Saturday, with response efforts complicated by the virus spreading further into conflict areas.

Since August 1, there have been 105 reported cases of Ebola in North Kivu and Ituri provinces, of which 77 have been confirmed by laboratory tests, according to the Health Ministry.

Eleven people have recovered from the virus, which causes vomiting, hemorrhagic fever and diarrhea.

Health Minister Oly Ilunga Kalenga traveled to the heart of the outbreak in Mangina on Thursday and witnessed two patients being released from hospital after undergoing an experimental treatment.

"These two people are among the first 10 patients to have received the therapeutic molecule mAb114," the ministry said in a statement.

It is the first therapeutic treatment to be used in an outbreak of Ebola in the Congo. Four other experimental treatments have also been approved.

Tedros Ghebreyesus, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO), on Saturday praised Congolese officials for quickly using experimental drugs to combat the deadly virus, calling it "a ray of hope for people with the disease."

Virus spreads in insurgent territory

On Friday, the UN health organization's emergency preparedness chief, Peter Salama, said he had "extremely serious security concerns" after the virus emerged in the town of Oicha in North Kivu.

A doctor there has been hospitalized with Ebola, and 97 of his contacts have been identified in an area almost entirely surrounded by armed militia.

Salama said although Oicha is not occupied by insurgents, the territory around the city is controlled by a murky Ugandan and Congolese militia group known as the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF).

"It is the first time we have a confirmed case and contacts in an area of high insecurity. It is really the problem we were anticipating and at same time dreading," said Salama.

Many civilians have been killed or displaced in fighting around Oicha. Militias have also taken aid workers, priests and government employees as hostages.

On Friday, a suspected ADF attack targeted army troops in Beni, a major town at the center of the Ebola outbreak.

More than 100 armed groups operate in eastern Congo, including dozens around the Ebola outbreak.

The current outbreak is the 10th to hit Congo since the disease was first discovered there in 1976. It is the second outbreak this year. 

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cw/cmk (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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