The World Health Organization (WHO) says it can not be certain that it had identified all people exposed to the deadly Ebola virus in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s North Kivu region, where insecurity prevents aid workers from reaching some areas.
More than 500 people have been vaccinated so far against the disease in Congo’s latest outbreak, marked by a total of 78 confirmed and probable cases including 44 deaths.
“In all, 78 cases of haemorrhagic fever have been reported in the region, of which 51 are confirmed and 27 probable” while “24 suspect cases are under investigation”, according to reports from Congolese authorities and the WHO.
Confirmed cases are verified by way of laboratory tests on samples taken from patients. The cases treated as “probable” often concern diseased people who had a close epidemiological link with confirmed cases, but have not been tested.
“We are expecting to see more cases,” WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic told reporters in Geneva.
The outbreak is the tenth to strike the DRC since 1976, when Ebola was first identified and named after a river in the north of the country.
It affects a part of the country wracked by violence for more than 20 years, from all-out war to insurgency and sustained ethnic clashes.
The ministry’s directorate for disease control announced on Tuesday that doctors in Beni had started to use a novel treatment called mAb114 to treat patients with Ebola.
The treatment is “the first therapeutic drug against the virus to be used in an active Ebola epidemic in the DRC,” it said.
mAb114 is an antibody initially isolated from a survivor of an Ebola outbreak in the western DRC city of Kikwit in 1995.