Following the re-emergence of the deadly Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the World Health Organisation (WHO) has advised the country to reduce the risk of possible sexual transmission based on further analysis of ongoing research and consideration by the WHO Advisory Group on the Ebola Virus Disease Response.
The WHO recommends that male survivors of EVD practice safe sex for 12 months from onset of symptoms or until their semen tests negative twice for Ebola virus but however said it does not recommend isolation of male or female convalescent patients whose blood has been tested negative for the Ebola virus.
It also advised the reduction in the risk of wildlife-to-human transmission from contact with infected fruit bats or monkeys/apes and the consumption of their raw meat.
It said animals should be handled with gloves and other appropriate protective clothing adding that animal products such as blood and meat should be thoroughly cooked before consumption.
A statement issued to newsmen on Monday by the WHO Media office also said the country should reduce the risk of human-to-human transmission from direct or close contact with people with EVD symptoms, particularly with their bodily fluids.
It said Appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) should be worn when taking care of ill patients noting that regular hand washing is required after visiting patients in a hospital, as well as after touching or coming into contact with any body fluids.
It further advise for the continous training and re-training of the health workforce for early detection, isolation, and treatment of EVD cases as well as re-training on safe and dignified burials and the IPC ring approach amongst other safety advice.
The WHO said as of 9 October 2021 a total of 148 contacts EVD victims have been identified and are under follow up by the response team.
It said the re-emergence of EVD is a major public health issue in the DRC and there are gaps in the country’s capacity to prepare for and respond to outbreaks.
It added that a confluence of environmental and socioeconomic factors including poverty, community mistrust, weak health systems, and political instability is accelerating the rate of the emergence of EVD in the DRC.
It said another challenge stretching the limited resources is the concurrent COVID-19 outbreak noting that the first confirmed COVID-19 case was registered in DRC on 14 March 2020.
it added that as of 5 October 2021, DRC had reported 57 197 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 1 087 deaths.
The WHO said it considers that the ongoing challenges in terms of access and security, epidemiological surveillance, coupled with the emergence of COVID-19, as well as cholera, meningitis, and measles outbreaks may jeopardize the country’s ability to rapidly detect and respond to the re-emergence of EVD cases.
WHO said it will ensure mandatory pre-deployment training and refresher training for any further deployments; reporting channels for alerts or complaints; prompt investigation of complaints; and monitoring.
It said the WHO is closely monitoring the situation and the risk assessment will be updated as more information becomes available.
The statement further said based on the current risk assessment and prior evidence on Ebola outbreaks, WHO advises against any restriction of travel and trade to the Democratic Republic of the Congo.