Angola shuts its border with the Congo to contain Ebola outbreak


Angola has shut a segment of its border with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to prevent the spread of the Ebola virus.

It comes after five more deaths in the DRC last week, bringing the total death toll to an estimated 25 this year.

While the outbreak has not yet reached their border, Angolan officials have shutdown the strip of land where Angolans and Congolese most commonly interact.

A group of border patrol officers, nurses and veterinary doctors have also been deployed to the border to specifically screen for Ebola in water and animal products being passed through.

The current Ebola outbreak began in the poorly-connected region of Ikoko-Impenge and Bikoro. It has since travelled 80 miles (130km) north to Mbandaka. There is fears it will spread to Kinshasa –364 miles (586km) south on the river, where 12 million people live

The way things stand, the current outbreak is, while alarming and devastating, manageable. But measures like Angola’s border closure won’t hurt, and may ultimately prove very useful in containing the spread. 

In 2014, the virus, considered one of the most lethal pathogens in existence, decimated West Africa and killed more than 11,000 people.

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

The new outbreak is the DRC’s ninth since the discovery of Ebola in the country in 1976.  

Officials in the DRC have already branded the fresh outbreak, which has seen 54 suspected cases, a ‘public health emergency’.

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

Neighbouring countries have already been alerted about the new outbreak of Ebola, which can cause severe bleeding.

DRC borders Angola, Zambia, Tanzania, Uganda, South Sudan, Central African Republic, Rwanda, Burundi and the Republic of Congo.

Kenya – separated from the DRC by Uganda – issued warnings earlier this month over the possible spread of Ebola.

International help has poured in as aid workers battle round-the-clock to contain the outbreak.

A mass vaccination campaign has also begun and all neighboring countries have been placed on high alert.

The current Ebola outbreak began in the poorly-connected region of Ikoko-Impenge and Bikoro – in the north east of the DRC.

It has since travelled 80 miles (130km) north to Mbandaka, a port city on the river Congo – an essential waterway – with around 1.2 million inhabitants.

The current outbreak of Ebola is caused by the Zaire strain.

There has been 54 suspected cases since the beginning of the outbreak in April but only 35 have been confirmed in lab tests.

Twelve deaths from Ebola have been confirmed so far, including two health care workers. Another two have been confirmed to have the virus.

In its last situation report, released Tuesday, the WHO said 906 contacts have been recorded and are ‘being followed up actively’.

Dr Derek Gatherer, a virologist from Lancaster University, warns the fresh outbreak is ‘reminiscent’ of the 2014 Ebola pandemic. 

He said there is a ‘major concern’ it will spread to Kinshasa –364 miles (586km) south on the river, where 12 million people live.

The city, which is the capital of the DRC, has an international airport with regular flights to European cities Zurich, Frankfurt and Brussels.

In an editorial for a scientific journal, Dr Gatherer wrote: ‘The current outbreak has the potential for rapid expansion in numbers.

He added: ‘Mbandaka is a port on the River Congo, the main arterial transport link from DRC’s capital Kinshasa to inland cities.

‘With poor to non-existent provision of running water, sewage and electricity, the similarities with the urban situation… during the west African outbreak are obvious.’



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