Arndt Bringing together: Ebola fever has been occurring in the People's Republic of Congo since last summer. At least 770 people have died of the virus. The World Health Organization (WHO) announced late last week that the Congo epidemic is not an international health emergency. If it had been called, for example, health examinations at national borders could have been carried out more intensively. One specialist in the fight against the Ebola virus is Maylyn Addo, a professor at the University of Hamburg-Eppendorf Medical Center. Mrs. Addo, how do you assess the WHO decision?
Marylyn Addo: There was yes on 12.04. a major controversial debate over whether the international health emergency should be called. The specialists gathered and decided at that moment that the call for an emergency is not justified at the moment. This can be discussed in a controversial way, formally there are certainly points that speak in favor. The outbreak is not well controlled and is in an area where other countries may also be affected. There have been no cases in neighboring countries, but such a state of emergency can also be called if neighboring countries are threatened. At this point, however, this was not considered necessary, and this should be respected.
Helpers sometimes do not have access to villages
Reuning: What is your lack of perspective in the People's Republic of Congo in the fight against Ebola fever?
Addo: It must be said that this health committee, which met, also praised the efforts of the Democratic Republic of Congo. It is a very complex political situation in the country – there are areas of difficult access, armed conflicts, lifeguards and helpers and organizations that work there, do not have access to communities and villages that have been affected. In this regard, tracking patients and contacts has been very difficult there. This is, I believe, one of the most difficult challenges facing first responders.
Reuning: And the vaccination of the local population, is it successful?
Addo: This is certainly a feeling of accomplishment: Since the beginning of the outbreak, more than 100,000 vaccines have been carried out by contacts, that is, people who contracted Ebola, came into contact and had contact with contacts. This has certainly never happened anywhere in the world, and data have already been made available – first data, not yet officially published, because the vaccine is very effective, over 75%.
Over and over again population attacks on helpers
Reuning: As you have already said, the political situation is difficult in the affected provinces in the northeast of the People's Republic where rebel forces are fighting against the country's army. Health centers, where suspected cases are isolated for the first time, observed and then treated, if necessary, these health centers have been repeatedly attacked and set on fire. Can the safety of ground helpers be guaranteed?
Addo: Yes, that is the great challenge of this outburst, to be together with the community. Trust must be built and confidence building measures are very important here because there are great fears, which is why there are repeated attacks on first responders by the population. First responders were abducted. The government is trying, the international community is trying to solve this problem concretely. This will certainly be a significant factor in the control of the outbreak. If the population does not cooperate, it can not be vaccinated, it does not give access to patients or it even destroys treatment centers, so of course we have a big problem.
"Difficult political situation"
Reuning: The Ebola epidemic in Congo has had a typical course so far, how do you know about other outbreaks?
Addo: It has to be said that this outbreak of Ebola in the Congo is the tenth for the country and the second largest in the world that we have seen so far. In that sense, the last two big ones – the West African and East – are the biggest explosions we've seen. In this respect, they are not very typical for this reason, because generally also the last outbreak in Congo, which was dammed in the spring of last year, had only fewer than 200 people. This has always been possible with relatively simple measures. It certainly depends on the location, the geographical location in which this outbreak occurs. As I said, the WCS has already had an outbreak, it has had several outbreaks, which they themselves have been able to handle, but this difficult political situation with armed resistance and difficulty of access can simply disrupt the measures that are used to combat the easy front.
Reuning: Is it predictable when this epidemic can end?
Addo: It's hard to speculate. At first, it seemed that someone had already achieved some success, also through this massive vaccination campaign. Now, in recent weeks, there have been again new cases, some of which are also unrelated or at least incomprehensible, from known contacts. And now you have to watch the next few weeks as the outbreak continues to evolve. Part of this increase in new cases is probably due to the fact that confidence-building measures did indeed come into effect, and areas or communities that previously did not give access to rescuers have now agreed, which is why cases can be counted . This certainly contributed to some of the increases, but there are still cases where the infection chains have not yet been decrypted. So there is still a lot of work to do. That will not be weeks, of course, but months, until the outbreak is controlled.
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