An outbreak of Ebola in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) killed dozens of people this month, authorities have said, as they roll out new drugs to tackle the virus amid concerns it has spread to a rebel-encircled area.
A total of 105 confirmed and probable cases of the disease have been reported since the flare-up began on August 1 in Mangina in North Kivu province, according to the country’s health ministry.
Of them, 77 have been confirmed by laboratory tests. There are another 28 probable cases in which biological samples are not available for laboratory testing.
The World Health Organization (WHO) reported, as of August 23, a total of 67 deaths, with 39 confirmed as Ebola and 28 listed as probable.
Of the confirmed cases, 11 people have recovered from the potentially deadly virus, while 27 others are hospitalised.
Health minister Oly Ilunga Kalenga travelled to Mangina on Thursday and saw two patients being discharged after they were treated with a new prototype treatment called mAb114.
“These two people are among the first 10 patients to have received the therapeutic molecule mAb114,” the ministry said in a statement.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, head of WHO, on Saturday congratulated the DRC’s government for making several experimental treatments available in this Ebola outbreak, calling it “a global first, and a ray of hope for people with the disease”.
|Ebola explainer May 20 2018 [Al Jazeera]
Developed in the United States, the mAb114 is the first therapeutic drug to be used in an active Ebola epidemic in the DRC.
The drug consists of a protein that binds on to a specific target of the virus and triggers the body’s immune system.
Earlier this week, the health ministry said four other experimental drugs had been approved for treating infected patients.
On Friday, the WHO warned that signs that the virus had spread to the city of Oicha in North Kivu province could frustrate efforts to contain the virus.
While Oicha itself is not under rebel control, Peter Salama, the WHO’s emergency response chief, said the city is entirely surrounded by territory held by a Ugandan armed group known as the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF).
Large numbers of civilians have been killed by unrest around Oicha, while aid workers, priests and government employers are currently being held hostage there by fighters.
The current outbreak is the 10th to strike the DRC since 1976 when Ebola was first identified and named after a river in the north of the country.