Kinshasa, DR Congo: The World Health Organization, WHO, said on Wednesday that The Democratic Republic of Congo has approved new experimental drugs to treat Ebola – and five new experimental Ebola treatments will only be used with patient consent.
An ethics committee said the therapies could be used on the grounds of compassionate care.
The DRC declared a new outbreak of the Ebola virus in early May in the Equateur province. As of Monday there have been 37 confirmed cases, 14 probable cases, seven suspected cases and 27 deaths, according to Peter Salama, deputy director-general for emergency preparedness and response for WHO.
The virus has largely been confined to the city of Mbandaka and surrounding rural towns. Health officials have targeted points of entry into the area for in-depth medical assessments. They also attempted to halt the spread of the disease using an experimental vaccine.
Now they’re looking at experimental treatments. The committee approved three monoclonal antibody cocktails — ZMapp, REGN and mAb 114 — and two antivirals — remdesivir and favipiravir. Medical professionals will determine which of the drugs is appropriate for each case and will only administer the drugs with consent from the patients.
Christophe Boulierac, a spokesman for the U.N. Children’s Fund — or UNICEF — last week said the organization is installing hand-washing stations at more than 270 schools to protect vulnerable children from the virus.
The Ebola virus, which has a two- to 21-day incubation period, causes fever, fatigue, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, vomiting, diarrhea, rash, and, in some cases, internal and external bleeding. It can be transmitted from animals to humans and in human-to-human contact, including sexual intercourse.
While there’s no proven treatment specifically for the virus, people can survive through treatment of the symptoms, including oral and intravenous fluids, and immune and drug therapies.
EARLIER: DR Congo Confirms Ebola Case In Urban Center – The government of Democratic Republic of Congo, DR Congo, says a new case of Ebola was detected in the northwest provincial capital of Equateur, city of Mbandaka, which is home to about one million people.
The person carrying the viral disease was one of two suspected cases in Mbandaka that were tested, Health Minister Oly Ilunga said in a statement.
“We are entering a new phase of the Ebola epidemic,” which now “includes one urban health zone,” Ilunga said.
The other towns of Equateur province, both upstream and downstream, have been “placed under surveillance,” according to Ilunga.
Kalenga said authorities were tracing all air, river and road routes in and out of the city to find the source of the virus.
“Since the announcement of the alert in Mbandaka, our epidemiologists are working in the field to identify people who have been in contact with suspected cases,” Kalenga said.
“Changing our behaviors, even our deepest values and traditions” will be required to stamp out the epidemic, Ilunga said, urging the population in affected areas not to touch sick people or wash the bodies of the deceased.
The Health Ministry on Wednesday received an air consignment of 4000 doses of an unlicensed (experimental) VSV-EBOV vaccine dispatched by the WHO from Geneva.
During his visit to Kinshasa last Saturday, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the World Health Organization, WHO, met with the President of the DRC, Jospeh Kabila who officially authorized the use of this vaccine against the Ebola virus in his country.
The doses are being stored in Kinshasa until DR Congo authorities are sure the vaccine can be transported to Mbandaka and Bikoro — and kept there — at a sufficiently low temperature. Electricity supply in the region is unreliable.
The ministry and its partners plan to launch a targeted program to vaccinate individuals against Ebola hemorrhagic fever, including health workers, who have been in contact, directly and indirectly, with patients confirmed to be infected with Ebola. So far, more than 500 people have been identified for vaccination.
The experimental vaccine, developed by Merck and Co Inc, has been shown to be highly effective against Ebola when it was was tested in Guinea. The vaccine is thought to be effective against the Zaire strain of Ebola found in DR Congo.
Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever (Ebola Virus)
Ebola is a virus that without preventive measures can spread quickly between people and is fatal in up to 90 percent of cases. The symptoms include fever, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle pain and at times internal and external bleeding. Symptoms can start to occur between two and 21 days from infection, according to WHO.
The virus is spread by close contact with the bodily fluids of people exhibiting symptoms and with objects such as sheets that have been contaminated by those fluids. Health care workers are often infected, and burial practices that call for washing or other close contact with Ebola victims also can spread the disease.
Ebola’s early flu-like symptoms are not always easy to detect.
There is no specific treatment (or cure) for Ebola.