Ebola toll reaches 95 cases, 77 deaths in Cuvette-Ouest Region

As at Wednesday, 95 cases of the deadly Ebola virus have been confirmed in the Cuvette-Ouest Region of the Republic of Congo (ROC), resulting thus far in 77 deaths, the World Health Organisation (WHO) reported.

WHO further reported that it had identified 149 other individuals who had been in contact with people suffering from the highly contagious haemorrhagic fever, which has been concentrated in the remote forest districts of Etoumbi, Mbomo and Kelle, near the border with Gabon.

The ROC Red Cross, which has 62 volunteers trained in techniques to combat Ebola, has been involved in assessing the situation on the ground together with the health ministry, the WHO and other agencies. They have been attempting to heighten awareness of the disease, identify suspected cases, enforce isolation and infection control measures and promote good practices among the local population, including not eating bushmeat or touching dead animals, and adopting safe practices during funeral rites.

Meanwhile, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies on Wednesday launched an appeal for US $130,000 to help the ROC Red Cross to monitor some 50,000 people for three months in remote parts of the country.

"Ebola is devastating and terrifying. It can kill those who care for the sick, and those who perform funeral rites," said the International Federation's senior epidemiologist, Dr Bernard Moriniere, in a Federation statement issued on Monday.

"Enforcing effective control measures while establishing trust and respecting the fears, traditions and beliefs of the community is very difficult in a context of death and despair," Moriniere added. "Community-based Red Cross volunteers can play a crucial role as a trusted bridge that is often lacking in such situations."

The Federation said that Ebola was characterised by fever, diarrhoea, severe blood loss, and intense fatigue, and transmitted through direct contact with body fluids of infected persons or other primates. There is no cure, and between 50 percent and 90 percent of victims die. The best way of halting its spread was through prevention and prompt detection and isolation of suspected cases, the Federation added.

Accordingly, the Brazzaville government quarantined the Cuvette-Ouest Region on 13 February. However, WHO said on Wednesday that the movement of people trying to escape the epidemic had remained a source of concern.

Authorities were first alerted to a possible Ebola outbreak when a band of gorillas in the region began dying. Tests carried out on the bodies confirmed that they had died of Ebola. The current outbreak is believed to have been caused by villagers eating primates infected by Ebola.