Bikoro (Agenzia Fides) - "The situation is worrying because it is urban unlike earlier ones" says Dr. Rose Mkunu at the head of a delegation of Caritas Congo visiting Mbandaka, together with the Diocesan office of medical surgery in Mbandaka-Bikoro.
"Caritas is doing everything it can to raise awareness and brief community and religious leaders on the disease as well as means for protection and surveillance but we are limited by our means", she notes.
On 8 May government officials confirmed the outbreak in the North-West of the Country which has so far caused 25 deaths out of a total of 45 cases of infections, of whom 14 confirmed. The data, released by the World Health Organization, are not reassuring, as there is fear of an escalation of the disease. The deaths occurred in Bikoro, which is about 150km from Mbandaka. The country’s ministry of health has announced there are a growing number of suspected cases and confirmed deaths.
Caritas Mbandaka-Bikoro says dozens of people have reported symptoms of fever, abdominal pain, diarrhea and haemorrage since early April, but the size and scope of the epidemic is not yet fully understood. Caritas is preparing for any escalation of the disease and will work strenuously with other agencies to stop it from spreading to other Countries. This latest Ebola outbreak is the ninth that has occurred in the Congo. But significantly it is the first time the Ebola virus has been reported in this health zone.
The new outbreak carries a potential risk of broader contamination because the epicenter of the epidemic, Bikoro, is on the shores of Lake Tumba with direct access to the Congo river that connects directly to Kinshasa – with an estimated population of 12 million people – as well as Brazzaville and Bangui. Mbandaka has a population of more than a million people and is close to the epicentre. There are fears that the disease could be transmitted by travellers from a remote location to an urban centre.
Three health workers are amongst the reported cases – one of whom has already died – and there are concerns that medical practitioners may have been in close contact with patients and could transmit the disease. Caritas has already planned to provide food to 1500 households as well as health support. "We plan to focus our efforts on prevention, water, hygiene and sanitation, community mobilization and communication. For this, we are counting on the involvement of priests, men and women religious, teachers and nursing staff working in the affected areas", said the Catholic organization in a statement.
The very first Ebola outbreak – the actual discovery of the virus – in the Congo was declared in 1976. According to figures compiled by the European Commission there have been 1,056 reported cases and 756 people have died since it was first identified in Congo. (AP) (Agenzia Fides, 22/5/2018)