Aug 23, 2018

Ebola outbreak in Congo could be slowing down — for now

While the fourth deadliest Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo continues — and still has the potential to explode domestically and beyond its border — there may be signs of a slowdown.

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

What's new: The DRC Ministry of Health announced Thursday that 9 people have been cured. As of Aug. 22, the total number of suspected cases topped 100, but only 13 people were being investigated. However, experts warn that it is too early to say if the outbreak has reached its peak.

"We're not out of the woods yet. ... You'll know when an outbreak has peaked when any new cases can be traced back to someone you already knew was infected."
— Julie E. Fischer, director, Elizabeth R. Griffin Program, Georgetown University Medical Center

"We'll know in a couple of weeks if the ring vaccination, positive communication [and experimental therapies] worked," Fischer tells Axios.

The problem with this particular outbreak, Fischer says, is the difficulty health care workers have in reaching possibly infected people in conflict areas. And, this is compounded by DRC's wide range of languages and cultural differences, leading to demand for multilingual medical workers who can negotiate the different local customs.

  • But, despite these obstacles, health officials from DRC, the World Health Organization and numerous other organizations have done a "great job" of hunting down possible infections, Fischer says. She points to WHO's statement that officials believe they have been able to trace 95% of infections.

What's happening now, according to releases from DRC's Ministry of Health Aug. 21-23:

  • DRC administered 2,613 experimental rVSV-ZEBOV vaccinations to those believed to have come into contact with infected persons or who are at the highest risk.
  • Beginning Aug. 11, health officials started distributing experimental treatment mAb114 to 10 patients, with positive results so far.
  • On Aug. 21, another experimental treatment, Remdesivir, was given to a patient in Beni's Ebola treatment center (CTE) and that person is "doing well," the ministry said.
  • DRC's Ethics Committee approved three other experimental treatments — Zmapp, favipiravir, and Regn3450-3471-3479, which will be distributed to the CTEs.

Editor's note: This piece was updated with the latest information from DRC's Ministry of Health, updating all the numbers and adding the 9 people cured.

Go deeper

Biden bets it all on South Carolina

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Most Joe Biden admirers Axios interviewed in South Carolina, where he's vowed to win today's primary, said they're unfazed by his embarrassing losses in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada.

Why it matters: Biden has bet it all on South Carolina to position himself as the best alternative to Bernie Sanders — his "good buddy," he tells voters before skewering Sanders' record and ideas.

Coronavirus updates: Market ends worst week since financial crisis

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens.

The stock market ended its worst week since the financial crisis, prompting the Fed to release a statement. Meanwhile, the WHO warned that countries are losing their chance to contain the novel coronavirus and raised its global risk assessment to "very high" Friday.

The big picture: COVID-19 has killed more than 2,860 people and infected more than 84,000 others in over 60 countries and territories outside the epicenter in mainland China. The number of new cases reported outside China now exceed those inside the country.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 12 hours ago - Health

California coronavirus: Latest case has no recent history of international travel

Gov. Gavin Newsom. Photo: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

A new case of the novel coronavirus in California was announced on Friday after Gov. Gavin Newsom said Thursday that 33 people had tested positive for the virus, noting the risk to the public remains low.

What's new: An adult woman with chronic health conditions in Santa Clara County who "did not recently travel overseas" or come into contact with anyone known to be ill was confirmed to have contracted the coronavirus on Friday by CDC and California Department of Public Health officials.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 12 hours ago - Health