New Ebola and Malaria Vaccines
In December 2019, the Gavi Board, an organization that improves the accessibility of immunizations to vulnerable children, approved a new program that will allocate new Ebola vaccines. A new funding initiative will invest about $178 million by 2025 for a new program to develop the vaccines. The decision is monumental in leading global health emergency stockpiles, which will grow to 500,000 doses.

Ebola’s Effect on Poverty

A study in December 2014 in Liberia indicated that the infectious disease hits poorer neighborhoods most. People in poverty are 3.5 times more likely to contract the disease than those in wealthier areas. Due to the dense population and lack of sanitation and health care facilities, the people in these communities are more susceptible to the virus. Ebola first appeared on an epidemic level in West Africa in 2014. While it existed prior to that, those cases were more contained. Crowded urban areas resulted in higher transference, further developing the outbreak.

Malaria Vaccines

In addition to the Ebola vaccine, Gavi approved continued steps in curating an implementation program for new malaria vaccines. The routine distribution of these vaccines will reduce child death significantly. Malaria is the primary cause of death of children under 5-years-old, with a reported 228 million cases and 405,000 deaths in 2018 alone. Malaria is also one of the top four causes of poverty, according to the United Nations. Its lack of affordable measures has strained many African economies, costing an estimated $30 billion a year. Many people cannot afford efficient medication and 20 percent often die due to poorly distributed drugs.

Countries affected by poverty and low income will have access to these vaccination campaigns free of charge, which will help boost economies. Countries such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have continually experienced rash Ebola outbreaks, with the latest one being in August 2018. Since then, the DRC has grappled with over 2,200 lives lost and 3,421 more reported cases in January 2020. In July 2019, the World Health Organization declared the Ebola outbreak a public health emergency that called for international concern.

The US Fights Against Ebola

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will also participate in close efforts to fight the Ebola outbreak in the DRC. The FDA granted programs in order to advance the development of new drugs that will lead to the prevention of tropical diseases. People primarily contract Ebola through direct contact with bodily fluids, blood and infected wild animals or people. Limiting these factors is difficult, but with proper medication and programs, along with the investments in sanitation and health care facilities, outbreaks will significantly reduce. These types of decisions are paramount in shifting the United States’ focus to a more global standpoint in regards to large-scale poverty.

The development of Ebola and malaria vaccination pilots is essential to the sustainability of areas affected by extreme poverty. Preventable measures will reduce the risk of contracting infectious diseases among these low-income communities. These comprehensive overviews will scale back the rate of Ebola outbreaks in African regions, which will also cut back on excessive government spending. Vaccination programs will help prevent 24 million people from facing extreme poverty by 2030. People could prevent a quarter of deaths that the outbreaks caused through simple vaccination, which makes these programs all the more noteworthy. The Gavi Board and the FDA’s efforts in launching new malaria and Ebola vaccines will contribute to the positive impact.

Brittany Adames
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Limit the Spread of Epidemics
In the past, there has been some difficulty in tracking and containing epidemics. In 2014, the Ebola virus killed thousands in West Africa. At the time, many national health systems had trouble properly addressing and controlling its spread. With aid agencies not knowing where to dedicate their attention, more people fell to Ebola. Determining where to distribute a vaccine is critical for the future of any region. It is often difficult to make the correct decision when there is not enough information on human mobility, the spread of an epidemic and its lethality in certain areas. People could have better contained Ebola had newer technology been available to help aid agencies track its spread. The Global Epidemic Prevention Platform (GEPP) may be able to limit the spread of epidemics.

A Solution for Limiting the Spread of Epidemics

The Global Epidemic Prevention Platform (GEPP) is a project that Korea Telecom (KT) Corporation and the Ghanaian government created to improve Ghana’s health information system and limit the spread of epidemics. The project employs information and communications technology (ICT) to gather data on epidemics. It works by gathering existing data and by incorporating newer input from its users. It analyzes Call Detail Record (CRD) data to determine the spread of people such as cross-border movement. Its main goal is to prepare its users for possible epidemics, whether its users consist of the general public or the Ghanaian government. Its existence helps detect the early spread of an epidemic, allowing governments more time to respond and giving humanitarian agencies and NGOs the opportunity to identify possible relationships and trends.

GEPP Explained

There are three parts to the GEPP: GEPP Public, GEPP Clinic and GEPP Gov. The GEPP Public’s intention is to inform Ghanaians of epidemic-prone areas. When someone is nearing one such area, they receive a notification and warning of its status. If a user is in an area that may become contaminated soon, the app provides disease information and prevention measures for pre-response during their stay. They also receive a list of nearby hospitals.

The GEPP Clinic is for the public to make real-time reports to nearby health centers in the event of an epidemic outbreak. Users can fill out a report for either themselves or another individual with their symptoms. This report goes into the GEPP Clinic’s database and gives the government a better idea of what is happening in a particular region.

The government uses GEPP Gov, which allows it to access the data gathered from GEPP Public and GEPP Clinic to monitor any possible health crises. As a result of the digitization of airport immigration information, the government can consider immigration levels when monitoring. This also takes away the need to manually compile this information. All of this aims to help developing countries and their governments prepare for and reduce the impact of epidemics.

If a disease has already spread and it is too late to prevent infection, the GEPP can also address the aftermath of disease by conducting communications in the area. Not only can it address health crises, but it can also apply to natural disasters and their control. In the event of a natural disaster, the GEPP can help aid workers provide shelter, food and health care to victims. If an area does not have a working mobile network, as a result of a natural disaster or not, the GEPP can use its collected data to contact them via satellites and Geographical Information Systems (GIS).

GEPP Support

The Ghana Health Service, KT, Mobile Network Operators (MNOs), Resolution 202, Resolution 136, Resolution 36 and WTDC Resolution 34 support the Global Epidemic Prevention Platform. While all of these play a large role in assisting the GEPP in its goal to limit the spread of epidemics, MNOs arguably do the most. MNOs provide the app with its official data. It gathers data from around the world and its software anonymizes it to protect privacy. This data then stays on a server or an International Telecommunication Union (ITU) cloud and can go towards creating a dynamic map for the ITU. Humanitarian actors and NGOs can, with permission, view this data through MNOs.

– Nyssa Jordan
Photo: Flickr

Global Health News
The start of 2020 is the time to look back and see global health news for 2019. From new drug recommendations and global vaccination efforts to ongoing diseases and funding to eliminate them, health agencies and national governments are working tirelessly to keep everything in place. They are making sure the general public, especially those in affected countries, get the right information and the best resources to address these health issues. They are gathering enough funding to implement different health programs for treatment and prevention. Finally, they are continually conducting research to find new treatments to make the world a healthier place.

Global Health News Updates for 2019

  1. Tafenoquine use for malaria is under new guidance: According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there were about 219 million malaria cases around the world in 2017. People can use Arakoda (tafenoquine 300 mg) and Krintafel (tafenoquine 150 mg) to treat malaria. The government of Kenya joined Ghana and Malawi to test the malaria vaccine for children. Results of clinical trials show that vaccinated children do not contract malaria as often as unvaccinated children.
  2. Poliovirus outbreaks increase sharply: Poliovirus (cVDVP) outbreaks have increased worldwide. Twenty-nine outbreaks occurred in 15 countries within a one-and-a-half-year period (2018-2019). The 29 outbreaks also tripled the number of outbreaks in the year prior (2017-2018) among six different countries. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has send staff to the affected areas to provide treatment and prevention efforts.
  3. Measles numbers increased: Measles cases have increased tremendously in the last three years. In 2018, there were approximately 10 million measles cases with 140,000 deaths. The number of deaths has increased from 90,000 in 2016. People are not receiving immunizations due to different vaccination beliefs and the availability of vaccines. UNICEF is trying to address the issue; however, Xavier Crespin, UNICEF’s chief of health in the Democratic Republic of Congo, said it has been difficult.
  4. Global vaccination coverage has stayed the same since 2010: The global vaccination rate has stayed between 85 percent to 86 percent for the past eight years. This is due to the low availability of vaccines reaching areas of countries that are experiencing high poverty and warfare. False vaccination beliefs are also a factor in holding back coverage. The Global Vaccine Action Plan (GVAP) is working to address the issue by setting up vaccination stations in these countries as well as solving any vaccination challenges that stand in the way of vaccinating people. 
  5. New Respiratory Syndrome from Wuhan, China: Chinese health authorities have confirmed a case of new coronavirus in January 2020. The number of deaths has reached 80 with more cases expected. The virus has spread to Malaysia, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Korea and the United States, and the situation is on its way to becoming a global epidemic. WHO is closely monitoring the situation and issuing health advisories to affected countries.
  6. Preparing for Ebola in South Sudan: South Sudan is preparing for Ebola as its neighbor, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, had an outbreak. Warfare has devastated the country’s health system; health experts are suggesting ways to prevent and treat diseases. The country’s health governance deployed fully-immunized health workers to support prevention efforts with 32 outposts for screening and care along the border.
  7. Antiretroviral treatment (ART) reduces HIV mortality in Kenya: The use of antiretrovirals to treat HIV has reduced HIV-related death rates in Kenya as one researcher at the CDC Zielinski-Gutierrez confirmed. The CDC is leading the AIDS-control effort as part of the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) all over the world including Kenya (PEPFAR Kenya).
  8. Shigella developed resistance to azithromycin and ciprofloxacin: In a research study, the virus that causes Shigella in men who have sex with men (MSM) has developed resistance to azithromycin, trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole and ciprofloxacin. WHO put preventative measures in place like the Water and Sanitation Decade Development Project to promote water sanitation and hand-washing education.
  9. Tuberculosis (TB) is low in the U.S. but not globally: Residents who were born outside of the U.S. are much more likely to contract tuberculosis and carry latent TB infection. The CDC stated that 69.5 percent of newly diagnosed TB cases are of those who were born outside of the U.S. compared to 29.5 percent of those who were born in the U.S. Furthermore, countries other than the U.S. have higher TB death rates. The United Nations and WHO are targeting to end TB in 2030 and 2050 respectively.
  10. Donors pledge to donate $2.6 billion to end polio: Donors pledged to donate $2.6 billion at the Polio Conference in Abu Dhabi to help put an end to world polio. Donations come from the Gates Foundation, the U.K., the U.S., Pakistan and Rotary International. WHO will use the funding to vaccinate 450 million children each year.

Global health challenges are ongoing; however, many are working to address these challenges. Global health efforts will not go unnoticed as the world will become a healthier, happier and safer place for all. Finally, global health news updates are an excellent way to communicate all global health trends, challenges and ongoing projects. 

– Hung Minh Le
Photo: Flickr

Infection Prevention and Control in Sierra Leone
Sierra Leone did not have an existing infection prevention and control program before its 2014-2016 Ebola epidemic. However, infection prevention and control is an essential element aiding in eradicating and preventing cross-infection among the community, patients, health care providers and hospital visitors.

The Current Course of Action

The Ministry of Health and Sanitation, with the help of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), has made significant strides in an attempt to get Sierra Leone’s health sector back on the right track. This partnership involves the implementation of the National Infection Prevention and Control Action Plan (IPC) to prevent future infection and disease. The IPC will enable the equipping of health facilities and open up conditions for the resources required for standard and transmission-based precautions. Further, the goal of the IPC aims to prevent and contain health care-associated infections.

The CDC’s Involvement

Disease threats are spreading faster than ever before but the CDC’s efforts in Sierra Leone have helped improve the country’s prevention, detection and ability to respond to infectious disease outbreaks. These abilities remain especially key before outbreaks become epidemics with the potential to affect global populations.

The CDC has played an important role in infection control in Sierra Leone, even establishing a country office in 2015 to focus on global health security. The CDC has been diligently working with Sierra Leone on surveillance, emergency management, strengthening laboratory and the workforce capacity to respond to disease outbreaks.

More than 700 CDC staff members served on over 1,000 deployments to Sierra Leone after the Ebola outbreak. Further, this makes it the CDC’s largest outbreak response ever in a single country. Sierra Leone, as of November 2015, is Ebola-free.

Keeping Infection and Disease Under Control in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone has taken a different approach to sustain the infection prevention and control. The country has invested in ongoing training for its health care workers. These efforts have helped ensure a safe working environment for all, with lower health care-associated infection risks. Health care workers and hospitals have improved their disposal of waste practices, hiring individuals to clean, along with disposing of the waste.

In addition, Sierra Leone has heightened awareness of infection prevention and control with the aid of supported sanitation and hand hygiene campaigns. These campaigns aid in the creation of a culture of hand-washing and have drastically reduced cross-infection among patients, thus eradicating Ebola.

As Dr. Keiji Fukuda, the WHO Assistant-Director General, states, “When health workers are infected at work, this puts other health care workers at risk. Understanding where the breach in these measures is occurring and taking the steps needed to fully implement infection prevention and control measures can put an end to these infections.”

Na’Keevia Brown
Photo: Flickr

Burundi's Health Care
Burundi is a Central African nation, bordering the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania and Rwanda. Those living within the nation face a plethora of challenges from civil wars to disease and a general state of civil unrest. On top of this, Burundi‘s health care requires efforts to reduce the spread of disease and provide better care to those affected.

The State of Burundi’s Health Care

The fear of communicable diseases grew exponentially following the multiple Ebola outbreaks in the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo. This illuminated the glaring flaws in Burundi’s health care system and an overall lack of preparedness for such a potentially deadly epidemic.

USAID has stated that Burundi’s health care system faces a “lack of adequate infrastructure and human resources to meet urgent community health needs.” Although the inadequacies are plentiful and debilitating, with relentless efforts, some are providing hope by way of ingenuity in Burundi’s health care system

Malaria

There were reports of over 7 million malaria cases in Burundi within the first 10 months of 2019. This is roughly 64 percent higher than the total recorded cases for 2018. The cause of this spike is a subject of debate, with experts citing climate change and an unequipped health care system as possible culprits.

A protozoan parasite causes malaria. After a bite from an infected mosquito, the protozoan parasite invades the red blood cells. People infected with malaria often experience flu-like symptoms. In 2017, there were records of 219 million cases of malaria, along with approximately 435,000 deaths. The vast majority of these cases were in Africa.

Many Burundians have taken refuge from the malaria epidemic in neighboring Rwanda. Although advances in fighting the disease remain somewhat stagnant in Burundi, Rwanda is succeeding in limiting the outbreak. Rwanda began coating refugee camps and homes with indoor residual spray. Since then, Rwanda experienced 430,000 fewer cases after just one year utilizing this method. Burundi, with a similar socioeconomic state as Rwanda, leads many to believe these methods could be beneficial for great success in both countries.

Cholera

Beginning in June 2019, a cholera outbreak overcame the city of Bujumbura, the most densely populated city in Burundi. With over 1,000 cases recorded, this far exceeds the national yearly average of about 200 to 250.

Cholera is a highly contagious bacterial infection caused by coming into contact with fecal matter, which is commonplace in bodies of still water. The disease causes severe diarrhea, which almost inevitably leads to dehydration. It can progress exceptionally fast, necessitating medical care within hours of infection.

Even with cholera’s endemic level in the city of Bujumbura, there have been minimal deaths. This is in large part due to the development of three cholera treatment facilities within the area. Many of the medical facilities face the incapability of treating the disease. However, with minimal investment, the country could make drastic changes for the better.

Ebola

Although the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has not moved into Burundi as of yet, the risk is high. This is largely due to the fact that many Burundians work and trade in the neighboring DRC. The border town of Gatumba, for instance, averages 6,000 border crossings every weekday and 3,000 border crossings on the weekends.

Ebola, a contagious virus, spreads through contact with bodily fluids (such as blood, urine, breast milk, semen and fecal matter). Ebola is classified as a hemorrhagic fever virus. This is due to the fact that Ebola causes issues with the clotting of blood. The issues with clotting often lead to blood leaking from blood vessels within the body, causing internal bleeding.

In an attempt to spread awareness, a fleet of vans equipped with speakers and filled with UNICEF workers are traveling around Burundi and educating on ways to prevent the spread of Ebola. Many of those living in Burundi are unaware that things such as proper hand-washing techniques can be the difference between life and death. Through education and increased communication within the community, many are optimistic regarding Burundi’s fight against the spread of Ebola.

Although Burundi faces much to overcome, through proper allocation of resources and help from an international audience, Burundi’s health care system can flourish, saving countless lives.

Austin Brown
Photo: Flickr

Aftermath of Ebola
An Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has infected 250,000 people and has nearly killed 1,700 people. The outbreak occurred in August 2018. The New York Times reported that the World Health Organization (WHO) declared this outbreak a global health emergency.

What is Ebola?

Ebola is a fatal disease that spreads through contact with a person with the Ebola virus. According to the CDC, “It spreads through direct contact with bodily fluids of a person who is sick with or has died from EVD.” One can also contract it through direct contact with blood and sexual contact. Symptoms usually occur within two to 21 days from the time a person contracts the virus.

The disease spread throughout the Congo and proceeded to enter countries such as Goma and those near Rwanda. This outbreak posed a threat to surrounding countries and the overall idea of public health.

Health care workers and medical team members in those areas are also becoming affected. According to data that the Ebola Response Committee collected, 157 workers have suffered Ebola and 41 of them have died. This means that 5 percent of the people suffering from Ebola in the Congo were health workers.

Since these outbreaks have been happening recently, officials are stepping in to launch infection control. The Democratic Republic of the Congo is receiving help from different global organizations in order to implement new infection prevention and control (IPC) training.

One of those training sessions consists of preparing local nurses, doctors and health workers on how to confront this disease. This is important because most of the local workers do not know how to detect the disease and safely isolate patients.

Efforts to Treat and Prevent Ebola

Weeks during and after the outbreak, WHO began to work with community officials to advocate for treatment for patients. This work consisted of WHO teaching and encouraging people in the affected community to recognize the symptoms of Ebola and to seek treatment immediately. WHO also connected with youth leaders and community representatives in order to collaborate with the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) about responding to the outbreak.

Other organizations such as Save the Children have been responding as well. Save the Children has been working with different organizations in the DRC to ensure they know how to protect themselves. The organization is also working with WHO on the ground to prevent outbreaks from spreading any further. Save the Children and WHO are doing this to reduce the damage the outbreak has already caused.

Save the Children sent out emergency health units to respond to the disease crisis, as well as partnering with the Congolese government on the ground to support its health facilities. It has trained many health workers and community leaders on how to address Ebola in their communities. It also built 15 Ebola triage points that will assist in detecting and preventing Ebola cases among children.

Many different initiatives within these organizations are taking place to help advocate for this crisis and bring in as much medical treatment as they can. As Ebola continues to infest the DRC, the surrounding countries and their poor communities, they will be in a continued state of a global health emergency.

– Jessica Jones
Photo: Flickr

Ebola Is BackA mother and her daughter traveled more than 1,000 miles from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to Uganda seeking medical help to save her child’s life. The nine-year-old girl from the DRC was exposed and later developed symptoms of Ebola on August 29, 2019. She was identified at the Mpondwe-Kasindi border point and then sent to an Ebola Treatment Centre (ETC) in Bwera, Uganda. Sadly, not too long after her arrival, the child passed away. Ebola is back in Africa. The situation is grim, but there are organizations trying to contain the virus.

Ebola in the DRC

There have been a total of 25 outbreaks in Africa since the first flare-up in the Ebola River in 1967. It has plagued countries spanning from the West to sub-Saharan Africa with a 25 to 90 percent fatality rate. This sporadic epidemic has come back yet again and bigger than before. This disease has surfaced in the North Kivu Province. It is considered to be the second-largest outbreak in history after the 2014-2016 outbreak that killed about 11,000 people.

The majority of EVD cases are coming from one of the 29 health zones located in Beni, Kalunguta, Manima and Mambasa. Out of the 3,054 EVD cases that were reported in September 2019, 2,945 of them were confirmed reports. Overall, 2,052 of those people died. Children have made up about 28 percent of probable and confirmed cases. Health care workers comprised around 5 percent.

Expanding Outside of the DRC

This 2019 case is different because the country is undergoing conflict and there are a lot of refugees fleeing to different parts of the region. The DRC’s political instability, random acts of violence and infrastructure limitations have also contributed to the restricted efforts to end the outbreak. As of June 2019, the disease started to expand into Uganda, with four cases confirmed near the eastern border shared with DRC, South Kivu Province and Rwanda borders.

Ugandan authorities have taken matters into their own hands. They strengthened border controls and “banned public gatherings” in areas that have been affected by EVD. According to the August 5, 2019 risk assessment, the national and regional levels are at higher risk of contracting EVD while the global level risk is low.

Vaccinating This Outbreak

The World Health Organization (WHO) Country Representative of Uganda, Yonas Tegegn, stated that whoever came into contact with the nine-year-old patient had to be vaccinated. Out of the five Congolese who made contact with the little girl, four of them have been sent back to their country for “proper follow-ups” and another 8,000 were vaccinated against Ebola due to the prevalence in the risk of certain areas in the country. Overall, 200,000 people in DRC and medical workers in neighboring countries have been vaccinated against EVD.

With this being said, there is no official vaccination that is known to completely protect people from this disease. However, an “effective experimental vaccine” has been found suitable enough for use. Another option to combat this virus is a therapeutic treatment that has shown immense results in the early stages of the virus.

WHO and the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network

WHO is doing everything it can to prevent the international spread of this disease. It had already implemented the International Health Regulations (IHR 2005) to “prevent, protect against, control and provide international responses” to the spread of EVD. This operation included many different concepts such as disease surveillance. Its designated procedures include notifying and reporting public health events and risks to other WHO countries, increasing risk assessments, considering whether or not an event is a public health emergency and strategizing international responses.

WHO partnered up with the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN) to ensure that proper technologies and skills are present in order to help everyone that is in need. GOARN is a group of institutions and networks that “use human and technical resources” to regularly warn one another to rapidly identify, confirm and respond to international outbreaks. WHO and GOARN have been working in at least 40 different countries with 400 specialists. Together, they have provided aid to more than 50 events around the world.

Isabella Gonzalez Montilla
Photo: Flickr

Ebola Virus DiseaseImagine traveling 1,316 kilometers from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to Uganda seeking medical help for your nine-year-old daughter who seems to have been infected with the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD).

On August 29, 2019, a nine-year-old girl from the DRC was exposed and later developed symptoms of this rare and fatal disease. She was identified at the Mpondwe-Kasindi border point and then sent to an Ebola Treatment Centre (ETC) in Bwera, Uganda. Sadly, not too long after her arrival, the child passed away.

This sporadic epidemic has come back yet again and bigger than last time. This disease has infected the North Kivu Province and has caused more than 2,200 cases, along with 1,500 deaths just this year. Thus, making this the second-largest outbreak in history following behind the 2014-2016 outbreak that killed about 11,000 people. As of September 4, 2019, a total of 3,054 Ebola Virus Disease cases were reported. Out of that total number of cases, 2,945 of them were confirmed reports and the rest of the 109 were probable cases. Overall, 2,052 of those people died.

This disease has had a total of 25 outbreaks since its first flare-up in the Ebola River in 1967. It has plagued countries spanning from the West to sub-Saharan Africa and has a 25 to 90 percent fatality rate. Even though reports are coming from 29 different health zones, the majority of these cases are coming from the health zones of Beni, Kalunguta, Manima and Mambasa. About 17 of these 29 health zones have reported new cases stating that 58 percent of probable and confirmed cases are female (1,772), 28 percent are children under the age of 18 (865) and 5 percent (156) are health workers.

This 2019 case is different because of the way that Ebola Virus Disease is affecting an area of the country that is undergoing conflict and receiving an influx of immigrants. The nation’s “political instability,” random acts of violence and “limited infrastructure” also contribute to the restricted efforts to end the outbreak.  As of June 2019, the disease started its expansion to Uganda, with four cases confirmed near the eastern border shared with DRC, South Kivu Province and Rwanda borders. The World Health Organization (WHO) Country Representative of Uganda, Yonas Tegegn, stated that whoever came into contact with the nine-year-old patient had to be vaccinated.

Out of the five Congolese who had contact with the little girl, four of them have been sent back to their country for “proper follow-ups.” Another 8,000 people were vaccinated against Ebola due to “high-risk areas in the country.”  Overall, 200,000 people in DRC have been vaccinated against EVD along with “health workers in surrounding countries.” With this being said, there is no official vaccination that is known to effectively protect people from this disease. Therefore an “effective experimental vaccine” has been found suitable enough for use. Also, a therapeutic treatment has shown “great effectiveness” in the early stages of the virus.

Ugandan authorities have taken matters into their own hands, strengthened border controls and banned public gatherings in areas that have been affected by EVD. According to the August 5, 2019 risk assessment, the national and regional levels are at higher risk of contracting EVD while the global level risk is low.

The Solutions

The World Health Organization (WHO) is doing everything they can to prevent the international spread of this disease. They have implemented the International Health Regulations (2005) to “prevent, protect against, control and provide international responses” to the spread of EVD.

This operational concept includes “specific procedures for disease surveillance,” notifying and reporting public health events and risks to other WHO countries, fast risk assessments, acting as a determinant as to whether or not an event is considered to be a public health emergency and coordinating international responses.

WHO also partnered up with the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN) to ensure that proper “technical expertise” and skills are on the ground helping people that need it most. GOARN is a group of institutions and networks that use human and technical resources to “constantly alert” one another to rapidly identify, confirm and respond to “outbreaks of international importance.”  WHO and GOARN have responded to over 50 events around the world with 400 specialists “providing field support” to 40 countries.

– Isabella Gonzalez Montilla
Photo: Flickr

Fight Disease in the DRC
With 80 million hectares of arable land and over 1,100 precious metals and minerals, the Democratic Republic of the Congo has quickly established itself as a large exporter in the lucrative diamond industry. Despite this, the DRC ranks 176th out of 189 nations on the UN’s Human Development Index and over 60 percent of the 77 million DRC residents live on less than $2 a day. Internal and external war, coupled with political inefficacy and economic exploitation, has hindered the country’s ability to combat poverty and improve health outcomes. Listed below are some of the most deadly diseases that are currently affecting individuals in the DRC and the different strategies that governments and NGOs have taken to fight disease in the DRC.

3 Deadly Diseases Currently Affecting Individuals in the DRC

  1. Malaria

The DRC has the second-highest number of malaria cases in the world, reporting 15.3 million of the WHO-estimated 219 million malaria cases in 2017. Of the more than 400 Congolese children that die every day, almost half of them die due to malaria, with 19 percent of fatalities under 5 years attributed to the disease. However, some are making to reduce malaria’s negative impact.  For example, the distribution of nearly 40 million insecticide-treated mosquito nets, or ITNs, has helped lower the incidence rate by 40 percent since 2010, with a 34 percent decrease in the mortality rate for children under 5. The DRC government procured and distributed the nets with international partners such as the Department for International Development, Global Fund and World Bank. In addition, the President’s Malaria Initiative, a program implemented in 2005 by President Bush and carried out by USAID, has distributed more than 17 million nets. UNICEF has also been a major contributor in the efforts to fight malaria and recently distributed 3 million ITNs in the DRC’s Kasaï Province. However, the country requires more work, as malaria remains its most frequent cause of death.

  1. HIV/AIDS

Among its efforts to fight disease in the DRC, the country has made significant progress recently in its fight against HIV/AIDS. As a cause of death, it has decreased significantly since 2007, and since 2010, there are 39 percent fewer total HIV infections.

This particular case illuminates the potential positive impact of American foreign aid. The DRC Ministry of Health started a partnership with the CDC in 2002, combining efforts to fight HIV/AIDS. PEPFAR, signed into U.S. law in 2003 to combat AIDS worldwide, has invested over $512 million since 2004, which has helped to fund antiretroviral treatment for 159,776 people. In 2017, it funded the provision of HIV testing services for 1.2 million people.

The country is also addressing mother-to-child transmissions. In the DRC, approximately 15 to 20 percent of mothers with HIV pass the virus onto their child. The strategy to end mother-to-child transmissions involves expanding coverage for HIV-positive pregnant women, diagnosing infants with HIV earlier and preventing new infections via antiretroviral drug treatment. UNAID, The Global Fund and the DRC Ministry of Health have undertaken significant work to accomplish these objectives and their efforts have resulted in the coverage of 70 percent of HIV-positive pregnant women.  However, much work remains to cover the remaining 30 percent of pregnant HIV-positive women.

Overall, there is still a lot of necessary work to undergo in the fight against HIV/AIDS in the DRC and around the world.  In total, UNAIDS estimated that HIV/AIDS was the cause of 17,000 deaths in the DRC in 2018.  While this is a decrease from previous years, it shows that the DRC still has a long way to go in order to fully control the spread of the disease.  Additionally, there must be more global funding. The U.N. announced on July 2019 that annual global funding for fighting HIV/AIDS decreased in 2018 by almost $1 billion.

  1. Ebola

Since 2018, the DRC has undergone one of the world’s largest Ebola outbreaks. On July 17, 2019, WHO declared the outbreak an international health emergency. Since August 2018, more than 2,500 cases have occurred, with over 1,800 deaths.

However, the country is making efforts to prevent the transmission and spread of Ebola in the DRC.  Recently, more than 110,000 Congolese received an experimental Ebola vaccine from Merck & Co. The vaccine is called rVSV-ZEBOV, and studies have shown the vaccine to have a 97.5 percent efficacy rate.  This vaccine provides hope that people will be able to control Ebola breakouts in the near future.

While there have been attempts to fight disease in the DRC in recent years, such as malaria, HIV/AIDS and Ebola, each disease remains a major issue. In the coming years, the country must continue its efforts.

– Drew Mekhail
Photo: Flickr

Ways to Fight Ebola in the DRCThe Democratic Repulic of the Congo (DRC) has been ravaged by violence and a deadly Ebola epidemic. Thousands have died, however, there may be hope on the horizon. A vaccine and cure for the terrible virus may soon end the years of pain and suffering caused by Ebola. Here are some ways to fight Ebola in the DRC.

Ebola in the DRC

The Congo has dealt with Ebola outbreaks before and managed to contain them before they grew out of control. The current outbreak, however, is proving to be difficult to contain as there have been more than 2,500 cases. Almost 1,800 people have died and the virus is spreading fast. With cases having been confirmed in neighboring Uganda, the World Health Organization says that there is a high risk that Ebola could spread into Rwanda and South Sudan as well. 

Challenges

The main obstacles to containment are a mistrust of doctors and violent conflict. Unfortunately, violent conflicts spill over into clinics where doctors are attacked for providing life-saving treatments for Ebola patients. In addition, a recent study found that almost 25 percent of Congolese people think Ebola is fake due to a lack of trust and the spread of misinformation. Some people even believe that Ebola is a money-making scheme and a way to suppress voters. Unfortunately, distrust means many Congolese avoid formal health care and decline vaccines.

Potential Cure

Scientists have been trialing two new antibody-based treatments. The success of these two treatments has been so great that Ebola may no longer be considered incurable. The two drugs, REGN-EB3 and mAb-114, have both increased survival rates to around 90 percent. REGN-EB3 is a drug invented by the pharmaceutical company Regeneron. mAb-114 is an antibody that was drawn from the blood of an Ebola survivor.

Recently, both treatments were involved in a study to test their effectiveness in comparison with the current drug Zmapp that has a mortality rate of 49 percent. The two new drugs, REGN-EB3 and mAb-114, were both found to have mortality rates under 35 percent. Even more encouraging, the mortality rates for the two drugs drops to below 15 percent when patients are treated as soon as they are infected. A major obstacle in the fight to control the epidemic is that patients wait a long time to seek medical attention. The new more effective treatments could convince people to seek help earlier since their mortality rates are better than the older treatments.

Possible Vaccine

American pharmaceutical company Merck has created an experimental vaccine that has proven to be very effective. Merck uses ring vaccination to vaccinate those who have come in contact with an Ebola patient. Using this method, almost 200,000 people in the DRC and its neighboring countries no longer have to worry about contracting Ebola. The vaccine has given 97 percent protection for those who have taken it. The United States Department of Health and Human Services recently announced that it will fund Merck’s vaccine production, with a $23 million investment signaling good news in the fight to contain (and prevent) Ebola in the DRC.

– Gaurav Shetty
Photo: Flickr