Aug 30, 2018

Congo to start school year on time to help battle Ebola and polio

Expand chart
Data: Ministry of Health DRC; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Government officials in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) announced this week they will start the school year on time on Sept. 3, as the deadly Ebola outbreak seems to have lessened in intensity (see chart above) but worries linger especially as 3 community deaths were reported today.

What's new: The concern is particularly over the 3 people who apparently died outside of quarantined treatment centers, since the Ebola virus remains highly infectious after death. Plus, in the midst of handling Ebola, health officials continue to deal with an outbreak of a rarer type of polio, and have begun a vaccination campaign in areas not affected by Ebola, per Jessica Ilunga, spokesperson for DRC's Ministry of Health.

Ebola update: While the number of new cases of Ebola has lessened, Ilunga says they remain "vigilant." She says:

"An Ebola outbreak works by waves. We had the first wave of cases who were contaminated before or just after the declaration of the outbreak. But there is a potential second wave of cases which are the people who were contaminated by the first wave and are in their incubation period."
"Vaccination is the only effective method to quickly break the transmission chain. That’s why our teams have been working around the clock to identify contacts and contacts of contacts, and vaccinate them as quickly as possible. Over the next few days, many contacts will come out of the 21-day surveillance period and we’ll know to what extend we managed to break the transmission chain."

The decision to start school on time in the affected region containing 250 schools is partly due to the belief they may be in greater danger of contracting the disease by playing unsupervised in the community, Ilunga says. She adds:

"There is a greater risk of having kids contaminated at home or on the streets than at school where measures will be put in place to protect them against the virus. And if one child develop the disease, we will be able to identify him quickly and to give him the appropriate treatment. Furthermore, it will be also easier to identify contacts and vaccinate them."

The situation remains dire in the affected provinces, WHO says, partly due to "intense insecurity and a worsening humanitarian crisis, with over one million internally displaced people and a continuous movement of refugees to neighbouring countries... [DRC] is also experiencing multiple disease outbreaks, including circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus type 2, cholera, measles, monkeypox, etc."

  • Ilunga says they've started a vaccination campaign for children 5 and under against the derived poliovirus that will focus on 16 at-risk provinces to try and eradicate the virus.
  • WHO officials have expressed concern that some areas will not receive needed vaccinations for polio and Ebola due to the conflict zones.

The school year plan: The government will teach the children how to conduct good hygiene practices, such as washing their hands with chlorinated water that will be provided at the schools. Directors and school teachers will receive training on Ebola, including prevention methods and measures to deal with suspicious signs of infection.

  • Besides training, UNICEF says it will distribute 500 laser thermometers (2/school) to monitor the health situation of children, install 1,500 hand-washing units (6/school) and distribute megaphones and prevention posters in every school.

Editor's note: This was updated with the latest Ebola data available.

Go deeper

Trump slams Dems as GOP sues California over mail-out ballot plan

California Gov. Gavin Newsom during a February news conference in Sacramento, California. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

President Trump accused Democrats of trying "Rig" November's general election as Republican groups filed a lawsuit against California over in an attempt to stop Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) from mailing ballots to all registered voters.

Driving the news: Newsom signed an executive order this month in response to the coronavirus pandemic ensuring that all registered voters in the state receive a mail-in ballot.

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 7 p.m. ET: 5,383,582 — Total deaths: 344,077 — Total recoveries — 2,158,031Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 7 p.m. ET: 1,640,972 — Total deaths: 97,679 — Total recoveries: 366,736 — Total tested: 14,163,195Map.
  3. World: White House announces travel restrictions on Brazil, coronavirus hotspot in Southern Hemisphere Over 100 coronavirus cases in Germany tied to single day of church services — Boris Johnson backs top aide amid reports that he broke U.K. lockdown while exhibiting symptoms.
  4. Public health: Officials are urging Americans to wear masks headed into Memorial Day weekend Report finds "little evidence" coronavirus under control in most statesHurricanes, wildfires, the flu could strain COVID-19 response
  5. Economy: White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett says it's possible the unemployment rate could still be in double digits by November's election — Public employees brace for layoffs.
  6. Federal government: Trump attacks a Columbia University study that suggests earlier lockdown could have saved 36,000 American lives.
  7. What should I do? Hydroxychloroquine questions answeredTraveling, asthma, dishes, disinfectants and being contagiousMasks, lending books and self-isolatingExercise, laundry, what counts as soap — Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingHow to minimize your risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it, the right mask to wear.

Subscribe to Mike Allen's Axios AM to follow our coronavirus coverage each morning from your inbox.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Federal judge strikes down Florida law requiring felons to pay fines before voting

Gov. Ron DeSantis. Photo: oe Raedle/Getty Images

A federal judge on Sunday ruled that a Florida law requiring convicted felons to pay all court fines and fees before registering to vote is unconstitutional.

Why it matters: The ruling, which will likely be appealed by state Republicans, would clear the way for hundreds of thousands of ex-felons in Florida to register to vote ahead of November's election.