“With an outbreak like this, it’s a race against time, as one Ebola patient with symptoms can infect several people every day.”

“Paul Jawor, who has just returned home from the African nation, admitted he was ‘very scared’ about the killer virus in a written account of his time on the ground…
Mr Jawor, a Doctors Without Borders and Médecins Sans Frontières water and sanitation expert, was sent to the DRC on May 20…
The current Ebola outbreak began in the poorly-connected region of Ikoko-Impenge and Bikoro – in the north east of the DRC.
It has since travelled 80 miles (130km) north to Mbandaka, a port city on the river Congo – an essential waterway – with around 1.2 million inhabitants.
Virologists fear there is a ‘major concern’ it will spread to Kinshasa – 364 miles (586km) south on the river, where 12 million people live.
The city, which is the capital of the DRC, has an international airport with regular flights to European cities Zurich, Frankfurt and Brussels.” (A)

Medical investigators will need to overcome the rural region’s extreme logistical hurdles to reconstruct transmission chains, vaccinate contacts and halt the spread…
Epidemiologists working in the remote forests have not yet identified the first case, nor many of the villagers who may have been exposed. Investigators will need to overcome extreme logistical hurdles to reconstruct how the virus was transmitted, vaccinate contacts and halt the spread.
“For an epidemic to be under control, you need a clear epidemiological picture,” said Dr. Henry Gray, the emergency coordinator for Doctors Without Borders.
“If you don’t know the stories of the people involved — who their families were, what their jobs were, where they went to weddings and funerals — then you don’t know the epidemic.”..
The W.H.O. is monitoring more than 900 contacts throughout Équateur province. As the vaccination program expands to the Bikoro and Iboko communities, where most cases have been reported, teams are relying on contact tracing to identify the most urgent recipients.
“This is where everything gets more complicated,” …The villages surrounding Bikoro and Iboko are among the most isolated and densely wooded pockets of Congo. Aid workers must use motorbikes to navigate cratered dirt roads that flood during the rainy season. Maps of some regions are incomplete, and vast gaps in cellular service thwart efforts to report data to central operations.
“Following the virus’s narrative may sounds easy to do on a suburban street outside Chicago,” said Dr. Salama. “But when you’re traveling hundreds of kilometers in a forest by motorbike to find each person, that’s very different epidemiological work.” …
Until investigators identify the index case, it is impossible to discern whether the first patient detected in April was truly the first human case or the hundredth, according to Dr. Gianfranco Rotigliano, the regional director of Unicef. Until then, it is impossible to quantify the crisis.
“These are the early days of the outbreak,” Dr. Salama said. “There can be lulls. We’ve seen that before. But there only needs to be one event — a super-spreader, like a funeral — to cause an explosion.”” (B)

“Globally, we must address three issues to tackle Ebola and other deadly pathogens. One is community engagement. Lack of trust between responders and communities has resulted in patients fleeing isolation, as well as likely missed cases and contacts. Ebola emerged in a remote community; it is essential to understand community perspectives and structure and to gain trust and enlist the community’s strengths to stop the disease.
Another issue is WHO’s effectiveness. The African Regional Office of WHO now has many staff with the needed technical and operational excellence, and the Geneva-based emergency program is more effective than before. But WHO country offices in DRC and elsewhere are not nearly as effective as they need to be. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, coming up on his first anniversary as WHO Director General, has unveiled a potentially transformative general program of work. His leadership will be essential for these ambitious goals and inspiring rhetoric to overcome operational and managerial weaknesses at WHO headquarters in Geneva, as well as in some regional and many country offices.” (C)

“The Trump administration has walked back its proposal to reclaim $252 million in unspent Ebola funds on Tuesday, which experts lauded as a welcome shift in the administration’s approach to global health leadership ― especially amid the new Ebola outbreak…
When President Donald Trump moved to cut the money the same week the current Ebola outbreak was announced in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the public outcry from global health experts and Congress was swift. They argued that Trump was undermining the U.S. leadership role in world health issues.
Their concerns were compounded by the early May departure of Rear Adm. Tim Ziemer, formerly the National Security Council’s head of global health security; the breakup of his team into other divisions; and the April departure of White House homeland security adviser Tom Bossert, another champion of global health investment.
As Ronald Klain, the former Ebola czar under President Barack Obama, told HuffPost at the time: “Proposing a rescission of Ebola contingency funds on the very day that a new Ebola outbreak is announced is badly misguided; forcing out the two top officials in charge of epidemic response at the White House ― Tom Bossert and Tim Ziemer ― is even worse. Doing it all at the same time shows a reckless disregard for the dangers we face.””
Also disquieting was the fact that the U.S. waited a full two weeks after the first announcement of U.K. funds for the latest Ebola outbreak to announce its own full contribution of $8 million from the U.S. Agency for International Development.” (D)

“Companies and other players involved in the development of experimental Ebola drugs are jockeying to have their products tested in the outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, part of a chaotic and politically charged effort to use them in the midst of a crisis….
Experts say the maneuvering for space in which to try vaccines and drugs brings to mind the frantic days of the West African Ebola outbreak, when there were so many research teams in the field that a free-for-all of experimental testing ensued. Most of the clinical trials produced little in the way of insight into what actually might work against Ebola.
There’s a “rush to evaluate [treatments] because the window of opportunity for evaluating these interventions is always going to be short,” said Ross Upshur, a physician and ethicist who was on the WHO panel…
“If we don’t use the opportunity to learn in this situation, we’ll never be able to know which is better than the other in terms of the drugs,” said Dr. Peter Salama, the WHO’s deputy director-general for emergency response…
“It’s not a simple effort to do this sort of trial in this kind of environment,” Salama said.” (E)

(A) Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo that is feared to have killed 27 people is a ‘race against time’, aid worker warns, by STEPHEN MATTHEWS, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-5821781/Ebola-outbreak-DRC-race-against-time-aid-worker-warns.html
(B) As Aid Workers Move to the Heart of Congo’s Ebola Outbreak, ‘Everything Gets More Complicated’, https://mobile.nytimes.com/2018/06/01/health/ebola-congo-outbreak.html?rref=collection%2Ftimestopic%2FEbola&action=click&contentCollection=timestopics&region=stream&module=stream_unit&version=latest&contentPlacement=1&pgtype=collection
(C) Still not ready for Ebola, http://science.sciencemag.org/content/360/6393/1049.full
(D) Trump Walks Back A Disastrous Ebola Funding Cut And Experts Sigh In Relief, by Lauren Weber, https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/trump-walks-back-ebola-funding-cut_us_5b183d68e4b0599bc6dffd4d
(E) Ebola outbreak opens way to chaotic jockeying to test experimental drugs, by HELEN BRANSWELL, https://www.statnews.com/2018/05/30/ebola-experimental-treatments/

Share on LinkedInShare on Google+Share on FacebookTweet about this on Twitter