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UK public health experts help with Ebola outbreak

Katie Coyne07/06/2018 - 12:26

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Ongoing outbreak
Ongoing outbreak

Three UK experts have been sent from Public Health England to the Democratic Republic of the Congo to help with the Ebola virus outbreak. They include two epidemiologists and a data scientist who are carrying out disease mapping and case management work.

They are set to help to identify the sites of existing cases and areas of transmission, including possible contacts to follow as well as key points of entry and exit of epidemic areas. This facilitate exit screening for signs of Ebola, to identify people who might travel from affected countries while sick. There have been no new confirmed cases since 28 May.

Dr Daniel Bausch who works for both PHE and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine is overseeing the work of the specialists on the ground. He explained that the idea was not to create a strict quarantine or restrict travel for the general population. Unrestricted travel is important, allowing response teams to move people, equipment and supplies. It is also important for affected communities to be able to maintain normal activities and livelihoods.

He said: ‘We don’t want to exacerbate the outbreak by creating economic or food insecurity. However, reasonable screening to identify sick persons, who can then be offered the best possible care in Ebola Treatment Units (ETUs), is very important, and to everyone’s benefit.

‘High quality case management is imperative, for both ethical and strategic reasons. We want to give people the best care we can to survive and recover from this dangerous disease. We also want sick people to have confidence that their best option is to immediately present to the ETU.  This will allow them to receive the care giving then the best chance of survival in an ETU with appropriate isolation measures.’

Bausch said that the team has learned not to approach the situation as an ‘us’ and ‘them’: ‘Rather, we need to engage as equals from the start to find common understanding and effective control messages that resonate with a given community. It’s a partnership.’

Bausch added there has been a ‘huge improvement’ compared to previous outbreak responses, with World Health Organisation being ‘very proactive’ and working closely with the DRC government.

Five new experimental drugs have been approved for use against the Ebola virus outbreak. The World Health Organisation has approved the use of the drugs on an emergency basis as the drugs have not yet been tested for safety and efficacy in clinical trials.

Some of the criteria under which the drugs have been approved include the fact that there is no current treatment for the disease and that mortality rates are high.

A WHO statement read: ‘This is the first time such treatments are available in the midst of an Ebola outbreak. Clinicians working in the treatment centres will make decisions on which drug to use as deemed helpful for their patients, and appropriate for the setting.’

The drugs can only be given with the informed consent of the patient and with strict protocols followed including close monitoring and reporting of any adverse effects.
Four of the drugs that have been approved - Zmapp, GS-5734, REGN monoclonal antibody combination, and mAb114 – are already in the country.

The WHO has already rolled out an experimental vaccine to protect those who have come into contact with suspected or confirmed cases of Ebola, to provide a ‘ring’ vaccination pattern to contain the outbreak.

Early indications suggest that the rapid response from the DRC government and international community, and the use of the vaccine may be helping to control the outbreak.








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