Congo’s health ministry says Ebola spreads to 2nd province

A family member of a deceased, unconfirmed Ebola patient, reacts inside an Ebola Treatment Centre run by The Alliance for International Medical Action (ALIMA) on August 13, 2018, in Beni. (AFP)
Updated 15 August 2018
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Congo’s health ministry says Ebola spreads to 2nd province

  • The outbreak spread from North Kivu province into neighboring Ituri province
  • The work to contain Ebola is challenged by the presence of several armed groups

BENI, Congo: Congo’s latest deadly Ebola outbreak has spread into a neighboring province, the health ministry said Tuesday, as health workers began using an experimental treatment for the disease.
Health officials are hoping the mAb114 therapy, isolated from a survivor of an Ebola outbreak in 1995, will be effective in this outbreak that so far has 30 confirmed cases including 14 deaths.
Five patients have been given the treatment, said the World Health Organization’s director-general, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. Four other experimental treatments have been approved for use, he said.
The outbreak spread from North Kivu province into neighboring Ituri province in Congo’s turbulent northeast when a man who had been treated for heart problems in Mangina, where the outbreak was declared Aug. 1, returned home, the health ministry said. He has since died and tests confirmed he had Ebola.
Vaccinations began last week in Mangina and Beni, the major town about 30 kilometers (18 miles) away where Ebola treatment centers have been set up. Health authorities are using what is called a ring vaccination technique in which health workers are vaccinated first, along with contacts of Ebola patients and their contacts.
Seven of the nearly 75 health workers in Mangina have been infected, Tedros said. More than 200 health workers have been vaccinated, along with 20 residents in the Beni region, he said. There are 3,000 vaccine doses in Congo.
The work to contain Ebola is challenged by the presence of several armed groups in the densely populated region close to the Ugandan border. WHO has called for secure access to all affected populations and for the cessation of hostilities.
“The virus is dangerous to us all,” Tedros said.
There are designated “red zones” where health workers cannot go because of the insecurity, raising concerns that cases could easily spread there, he said.
“We are on an epidemiological precipice,” WHO’s emergency preparedness chief, Dr. Peter Salama, said in a Twitter post, with a limited window of opportunity to stop the outbreak from spreading into those areas.
For now the epicenter of the outbreak is in and around Beni so aid workers have been able to move with relative safety, said Jean-Philippe Marcoux, Congo country director for Mercy Corps.
The area around Mangina and Beni, however, is “almost completely surrounded by armed groups,” the International Committee of the Red Cross said in a statement.
North Kivu is densely populated with more than 1 million displaced people, and while this is Congo’s tenth Ebola outbreak health officials have said the local population is not familiar with the disease. That makes outreach more challenging.
“The unknown can create more fear,” Marcoux said.
The WHO chief said the risk of international spread is low. He said officials have been in contact with neighboring Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan.


Hong Kong bans pro-independence party

In this file photo taken on August 5, 2016, Andy Chan (R), leader of the pro-independence Hong Kong National Party (HKNP), gives a press conference at the start of a rally near the government's headquarters in Hong Kong. (AFP)
Updated 25 min 22 sec ago
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Hong Kong bans pro-independence party

  • The ban is likely to raise further questions about Beijing’s growing influence in the former British colony, which was promised semi-autonomy as part of the 1997 handover

HONG KONG: Authorities in Hong Kong on Monday took an unprecedented step against separatist voices by banning a political party that advocates independence for the southern Chinese territory on national security grounds.
John Lee, the territory’s secretary for security, announced that the Hong Kong National Party will be prohibited from operation from Monday.
Lee’s announcement did not provide further details. But Hong Kong’s security bureau had previously said in a letter to the National Party’s leader, 27-year-old Andy Chan, that the party should be dissolved “in the interests of national security or public safety, public order or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.” Chan had no immediate comment.
That letter had cited a national security law that has not been invoked since 1997. The ban is likely to raise further questions about Beijing’s growing influence in the former British colony, which was promised semi-autonomy as part of the 1997 handover. Chinese President Xi Jinping and other officials have warned separatist activity would not be tolerated.
Chan, the National Party leader, had previously told The Associated Press that police approached him with documents detailing his speeches and activities since the party’s formation in 2016.
The party was founded in response to frustration about Beijing’s treatment of Hong Kong. Despite a promise of autonomy, activists complain mainland influence over its democratic elections is increasing.
Chan and other pro-independence candidates were disqualified from 2016 elections to the Hong Kong legislature after they refused to sign a pledge saying Hong Kong is an inalienable part of China. The Hong Kong National Party has never held any seats on the council.