US prepares to send staff, funding to fight Congo Ebola outbreak

The United States is preparing to send staff and funding to help combat an Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

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About the outbreak

The DRC government on May 8 declared an Ebola outbreak. According to the Washington Post's "To Your Health," the Congolese Health Ministry as of Friday reported four confirmed cases of the virus and 43 suspected cases of the virus. Officials said 25 of those cases involve people who died. Officials reported one suspected case of the virus in Congolese, a major city near the outbreak's epicenter. Officials also suspect that more than 530 people might have come in contact with individuals infected with Ebola.

Last week, the World Health Organization (WHO) sent the first of 4,000 doses of an experimental Ebola vaccine developed by Merck to DRC. Merck developed the vaccine, which is not yet licensed, in response to the 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak that killed more than 11,000 people in West Africa and infected several U.S. residents. Among the U.S. patients were health care providers who cared for Ebola patients abroad and two nurses who cared for an Ebola patient in the United States.

Congolese health officials said they are monitoring the more than 530 individuals who might have come in contact with the virus as possible candidates for vaccination, "To Your Health" reports.

US prepares to send staff, funding to DRC

According to The Hill, CDC has an office in DRC's capital city of Kinshasa, which is about 350 miles from the outbreak's epicenter. CDC said about a dozen staffers at that office are preparing to deploy to the outbreak's epicenter once they are formally invited by DRC's health ministry.

Pierre Rollin, one of CDC's top Ebola experts, said WHO is leading and coordinating a response to the outbreak among both governmental and nongovernmental organizations. "We're offering them a roster of 12 or 15 people that will be able to go there," Rollin said, adding, "They're ready to go as soon as they've got an invitation."

According to "To Your Health," U.S. officials also are preparing to provide several million dollars toward efforts to combat the outbreak, and are expected to make an announcement about the funding early next week.

WHO officials have estimated that it will cost about $26 million over the next three months to fight the outbreak. The agency so far has received funding commitments equaling about $9 million, "To Your Health" reports.

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) on Friday said it already has given WHO $1 million to use toward its response to the outbreak, and U.S. officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity said they expect the United States will provide several million dollars in additional funding for the response, according to "To Your Health."

In addition, USAID said it is sending 2,000 personal-protective-equipment kits, materials for diagnostic testing, and other technical support to DRC (Wilson, The Hill, 5/18; Sun, "To Your Health," Washington Post, 5/18).

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