The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has activated its Emergency Operations Centers to better aid the international response to the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The outbreak in the Africa country’s eastern region has now spread to Goma, a gateway city of 2 million people on the border of Rwanda. The virus has infected 2,512 people and killed 1,676 of them so far during the year-long outbreak.
The CDC said in a statement issued July 17 that there are no cases in the U.S. and that the risk to the country from the current outbreak “remains low based on the travel volume and travel patterns from the outbreak area to the United States.”
In its statement, the CDC said it “fully supports” the decision by the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee of the World Health Organization to declare the outbreak a “public health emergency of international concern.”
It said such a declaration is made “if an extraordinary event poses a public health threat to other nations through the spread of disease and requires a more robust coordinated international response.”
“Make no mistake, the challenges to stopping the Ebola outbreak are growing steeper and the public health response will unquestionably be longer,” said CDC Director Dr. Robert R. Redfield in the statement of the outbreak that has brought travel-associated cases to neighboring Uganda.
“CDC stands ready to support our U.S. government and international partners in limiting the spread of Ebola, improving the human condition, and bringing this outbreak to an end.”
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar called ending the Ebola outbreak “one of the Trump Administration’s top global health priorities.”
“The United States government has already played a vital role in supporting the response in the DRC and neighboring nations, and will continue this support until we have put an end to the outbreak,” Azar said in the statement.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called for the “world to take notice” and “work in solidarity with the DRC to end this outbreak and build a better health system.”
CDC experts are said to be working with the United States Agency for International Development Disaster Assistance Response Team on the ground in the DRC and the American Embassy in Kinshasa to support the Congolese and international response.
This effort includes providing technical assistance and expertise in disease tracking, case investigation, contact tracing, case management, infection prevention and control, safe burials, community engagement and social mobilization, risk communication and health education, behavioral science, laboratory testing, border health, data management, vaccination campaigns, and logistics.
As of July 16, CDC staff are said to have conducted 311 deployments to the DRC, neighboring countries and WHO headquarters.
CDC has 246 permanent staff in the three high-risk countries bordering the outbreak that also includes the South Sudan as well as in the DRC.
DRC has more than 150 graduates of CDC’s Field Epidemiology and Laboratory Training Program who are involved in the response.
CDC’s activation of its Emergency Operations Centers allows the agency to provide increased operational support for the response to meet the outbreak’s evolving challenges.
No trade or travel restrictions have as yet been enacted. In its travel advisory the CDC has said “the risk of Ebola infection for most travelers to DRC is low. Only those going to the outbreak area or who otherwise have contact with a person with Ebola are at risk.”
The outbreak in DRC is occurring in a region where there are armed conflict, outbreaks of violence, and other problems that the CDC statements says “complicate public health response activities and increase the risk of disease spread both locally within DRC and to neighboring countries.”
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, there were more than 28,600 cases of Ebola and more than 11,000 deaths during the 2014-2016 Ebola epidemic in West Africa, said to be the largest outbreak in history.
Eleven people were treated for Ebola in the United States during the 2014-2016 epidemic.
Ebola Virus Disease is described by the CDC as “a rare and deadly disease most commonly affecting people and nonhuman primates.”
The virus is believed to be animal-borne, with bats being the most likely source.
It spreads to people through direct contact with bodily fluids of a person who is sick with or has died from EVD.
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