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Congo

Baby who caught killer Ebola at just six days old is hailed a ‘miracle’


A baby who was admitted to an Ebola treatment center at just six days old has been hailed a ‘young miracle’ after surviving her battle with the killer virus. 

Congo’s health ministry said the girl, called Benedicte, is the youngest survivor in what is now the world’s second-deadliest ever Ebola outbreak.

Figures show the death toll in the African nation has jumped to 289, as neighbouring countries remain on high alert amid fears it could spread.

Congo’s health ministry calls the baby the youngest survivor in what is now the world’s second-deadliest Ebola outbreak

The ministry tweeted a photo of the infant, swaddled and with her tiny mouth open surrounded by caregivers who watched over her 24 hours a day for weeks.

The baby’s mother, who had been struck down with Ebola, died in childbirth, the ministry confirmed.

The infant was discharged from the treatment center in Beni on Wednesday. ‘She went home in the arms of her father and her aunt,’ the ministry said.

The Democratic Republic of Congo’s Ebola outbreak, which began in August, is showing no signs of slowing down.

Experts have reported worryingly high numbers of children with Ebola in this outbreak, accounting for a third of all cases. 

And the latest figures show 515 people are feared to have been struck down, of which 467 cases have been confirmed. Data also reveals 255 confirmed deaths.

Figures show the death toll in the African nation has jumped to 289, as neighbouring countries remain on high alert amid fears it could spread

Figures show the death toll in the African nation has jumped to 289, as neighbouring countries remain on high alert amid fears it could spread

In video footage shared by UNICEF, Benedicte is shown in an isolated treatment area, specially set-up to deal with the outbreak

In video footage shared by UNICEF, Benedicte is shown in an isolated treatment area, specially set-up to deal with the outbreak

She is cradled in the arms of health workers donning protective gear and by Ebola survivors, called 'nounous,' who can go without certain gear, such as masks

She is cradled in the arms of health workers donning protective gear and by Ebola survivors, called ‘nounous,’ who can go without certain gear, such as masks

In video footage shared by UNICEF, Benedicte is shown in an isolated treatment area, specially set-up to deal with the outbreak.

She is cradled in the arms of health workers donning protective gear and by Ebola survivors, called ‘nounous,’ who can go without certain gear, such as masks.  

‘This is my first child,’ her father, Thomas, said. ‘I truly don’t want to lose her. She is my hope.’  

Children who contract the hemorrhagic fever, responsible for a brutal epidemic in West Africa in 2014, are at greater risk of dying than adults.

Ebola typically infects adults because they are most likely to be exposed to the lethal virus. However, children have been known in some instances to catch the disease when they act as caregivers.

Few cases of Ebola in babies have historically been reported, but experts suspect transmission could happen via breast milk or close contact with infected parents.  

So far, more than 400 children have been left orphaned or unaccompanied in this outbreak as patients can spend weeks in treatment centers, UNICEF said. 

A kindergarten has opened next to one treatment center in Beni ‘to assist the youngest children whose parents are isolated’ there, it added.

Experts say public and private health centres have inadequate control practices, spreading the virus. Pictured, a healthcare worker sits in a hospital in Bwana Suri, Ituri province of Democratic Republic of Congo, December 10

Experts say public and private health centres have inadequate control practices, spreading the virus. Pictured, a healthcare worker sits in a hospital in Bwana Suri, Ituri province of Democratic Republic of Congo, December 10

Pictured, a healthcare worker stands after cleaning a room after an Ebola patient stays in a hospital in Bwana Suri, Ituri province, December 10

Pictured, a healthcare worker stands after cleaning a room after an Ebola patient stays in a hospital in Bwana Suri, Ituri province, December 10

HAS THE DRC HAD AN EBOLA OUTBREAK BEFORE?

DRC escaped the brutal Ebola pandemic that began in 2014, which was finally declared over in January 2016 – but it was struck by a smaller outbreak last year.

Four DRC residents died from the virus in 2017. The outbreak lasted just 42 days and international aid teams were praised for their prompt responses.

The new outbreak is the DRC’s tenth since the discovery of Ebola in the country in 1976, named after the river. The outbreak earlier this summer was its ninth.

Health experts credit an awareness of the disease among the population and local medical staff’s experience treating for past successes containing its spread.

DRC’s vast, remote geography also gives it an advantage, as outbreaks are often localised and relatively easy to isolate.

Health experts have said this Ebola outbreak, the tenth to strike Congo since the virus was discovered there in 1976, is like no other.

Health workers face the threat of attack from armed groups and resistance from a wary population in a region that had never faced an Ebola outbreak before. 

Tracking suspected contacts of Ebola victims remains a challenge in areas controlled by rebels.

Ebola can be transmitted between humans through blood, secretions and other bodily fluids of people – and surfaces – that have been infected.

The treatment of Ebola itself has taken an experimental turn in DRC, where scientists are now conducting a real-time study of how well pioneering drugs work.

More than 160 people there have already been treated with the drugs, and the way people are treated won’t change, but scientists will now be able to compare them. 

Four experimental drugs are being used to try and combat the disease – mAb 114, ZMapp, Remdesivir and Regeneron. 

Patients will get one of the four, but researchers won’t know which they were given until after the study.

The outbreak has been plagued by security problems, with health workers attacked by rebels in districts where the virus has been spreading.

Health workers had to be evacuated from their hotel after it was hit by a shell in a nearby armed rebel attack last month.

Armed groups have kidnapped and killed people trying to treat the sick, and ongoing conflict has made locals suspicious of official health workers.

Last week, officials announced more Ebola cases are being diagnosed in the city of Butembo, 35 miles (56km) away from Beni, where most of the outbreak is happening. 

Experts warn the quick spread makes tackling the virus more complicated because containing it has been challenging enough in the one city. 

Ebola can be transmitted between humans through blood, secretions and other bodily fluids of people - and surfaces - that have been infected. Pictured, a health care worker arranges washed boots in a transit centre in Beni, North Kivu Province, December 6

Ebola can be transmitted between humans through blood, secretions and other bodily fluids of people – and surfaces – that have been infected. Pictured, a health care worker arranges washed boots in a transit centre in Beni, North Kivu Province, December 6

They fear experimental vaccines which have been doled out to thousands of people, and have reportedly prevented the death toll rising into the thousands, will run out.

It comes after news broke earlier this week that hundreds of health workers in South Sudan will be given Ebola vaccinations amid fears the virus will spread. 

No cases have been confirmed in neighbouring South Sudan yet, but the country is on ‘high alert’, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). 

More than 2,000 healthcare and frontline workers in the country will be offered a vaccine to try and stop the spread. 

Teams of vaccinators are ready to conduct the vaccinations, starting in the capital, Juba, on December 19.

The UN Refugee Agency warned there is an influx of Congolese refugees seeking shelter in South Sudan because of conflict in the DRC.

WHAT IS EBOLA AND HOW DEADLY IS IT?

Ebola, a haemorrhagic fever, killed at least 11,000 across the world after it decimated West Africa and spread rapidly over the space of two years.

That epidemic was officially declared over back in January 2016, when Liberia was announced to be Ebola-free by the WHO.

The country, rocked by back-to-back civil wars that ended in 2003, was hit the hardest by the fever, with 40 per cent of the deaths having occurred there.

Sierra Leone reported the highest number of Ebola cases, with nearly of all those infected having been residents of the nation.

WHERE DID IT BEGIN? 

An analysis, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, found the outbreak began in Guinea – which neighbours Liberia and Sierra Leone.

A team of international researchers were able to trace the epidemic back to a two-year-old boy in Meliandou – about 400 miles (650km) from the capital, Conakry.

Emile Ouamouno, known more commonly as Patient Zero, may have contracted the deadly virus by playing with bats in a hollow tree, a study suggested.

HOW MANY PEOPLE WERE STRUCK DOWN? 

WHICH COUNTRIES WERE STRUCK DOWN BY EBOLA DURING THE 2014-16 EPIDEMIC? (CDC figures)
COUNTRY                                                CASES  DEATHS DEATH RATE (%) 
GUINEA 3,814 2,544 66.7%
SIERRA LEONE  14,124  3,956  28.0% 
LIBERIA  10,678  4,810  45.0% 
NIGERIA  20  40.0% 
SENEGAL  N/A 
SPAIN  N/A 
US  25.0% 
MALI  75.0%
UK  N/A
ITALY  N/A 

Figures show nearly 29,000 people were infected from Ebola – meaning the virus killed around 40 per cent of those it struck.

Cases and deaths were also reported in Nigeria, Mali and the US – but on a much smaller scale, with 15 fatalities between the three nations.

Health officials in Guinea reported a mysterious bug in the south-eastern regions of the country before the WHO confirmed it was Ebola. 

Ebola was first identified by scientists in 1976, but the most recent outbreak dwarfed all other ones recorded in history, figures show.

HOW DID HUMANS CONTRACT THE VIRUS? 

Scientists believe Ebola is most often passed to humans by fruit bats, but antelope, porcupines, gorillas and chimpanzees could also be to blame.

It can be transmitted between humans through blood, secretions and other bodily fluids of people – and surfaces – that have been infected.

IS THERE A TREATMENT? 

The WHO warns that there is ‘no proven treatment’ for Ebola – but dozens of drugs and jabs are being tested in case of a similarly devastating outbreak.

Hope exists though, after an experimental vaccine, called rVSV-ZEBOV, protected nearly 6,000 people. The results were published in The Lancet journal. 



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