DRC Ebola crisis poses global threat


U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX) is stepping up calls for more U.S. action to prevent a global Ebola outbreak, following last week's announcement from the World Health Organization (WHO) designating the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.

In a resignation letter posted on his Twitter account, Oly Ilunga noted that there was an "interference in the management of the response" to the outbreak.

Based on the new trend, the World Health Organisation (WHO), last week declared the outbreak an worldwide health emergency.

Tshisekedi on Saturday replaced Ilunga as the head of the country's response to the latest Ebola epidemic, which has killed more than 1,700 people.

"Strong pressure has been exerted for several months to roll out a new experiment in the DR Congo", he wrote.

It has yet to be used on the ground due to Ilunga's objections. So far, the DRC has only administered vaccines manufactured by Merck to over 160,000 people, and it has proved effective.

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"It would be unrealistic to believe that the new vaccine, proposed by actors who have demonstrated a clear lack of ethics by voluntarily hiding important information from health authorities, could have a decisive impact on the control of the epidemic", said Ilunga, a medical doctor.

But according to Johnson & Johnson, the vaccine has been tested on more than 6,000 volunteers in a phase 1 trial and raised no particular safety concerns. "Use this as an opportunity to review and strengthen your systems", said CARPHA's Executive Director Dr Joy St John.

PHEIC was first defined in 2005, when an "extraordinary event poses a public health threat to other nations through the spread of disease and requires a more robust and coordinated global response", explains WHO.

A World Health Organization spokesman said the organisation was grateful for Ilunga's leadership and dedication and looked forward to "working closely with the new coordination team as we have with the previous one". The development will thus benefit the Democratic Republic of Congo and its neighboring countries with worldwide funds, in addition to a support, necessary to control the outbreak, in order to limit it from becoming a global threat, claims Kristin Englund, MD.

Only the 2013-16 epidemic in West Africa that killed more than 11,000 people has been deadlier.