Chapel Hill, N.C. — Medical teams are working to contain a new Ebola Virus outbreak in central Africa. Opposed to previous Ebola Virus epidemics, they now have more tools at their disposal.
Ebola Virus Vaccines and rapid testing for the virus are being used to contain the epidemic. Occasional Ebola Virus outbreaks in parts of Africa are expected, but most involve relatively small numbers of infections and deaths.
Dr. David Wohl and Dr. Billy Fischer with the UNC Center for Infectious Diseases were among those treating patients in an epidemic that persisted for 3 years.
“I think in 2014, it got the world’s notice because it was such a huge outbreak,” Wohl said.
By early summer 2016, the disease was linked to more than 11,000 deaths. A few patients learned they were infected after arriving in the United States by plane.
Wohl led a study that found the virus lingering in the genital fluids of many survivors. Blood tests can detect signs of the virus, but results take time.
“We were able to adapt that to do it quickly in the field looking at semen,” Wohl said.
He said identifying those individuals early can help prevent sexual transmission. An active vaccination program, targeting household members in close contact with an Ebola patient, is another strategy.
“Giving them the vaccine early on, before exposing them, protected them much better than delaying the vaccine,” Wohl said.
Wohl said past outbreaks were mostly limited to rural areas, but now, infections in the Democratic Republic of Congo seem to be traveling up river to urban areas.
“We’re very concerned about the spread of the virus in big population centers,” Wohl said
Wohl plans to join other medical teams in the DRC soon to help stem transmission of the disease. He said a big concern now is a shortage of funding.
He said more money is needed to increase the number of medical teams and enable them to set up operations in problem areas faster.
Doctors Without Borders is getting involved in the efforts to end an Ebola outbreak in Congo. The medical charity sets up Ebola treatment centers in one of the epicenters of the outbreak and has launched a vaccination program.https://www.wral.com/unc-doctors-work-to-contain-new-ebola-outbreak-in-central-africa/17592867/