SEATTLE — Unfortunately, the deadly Ebola virus has not yet been fully contained. In 2018, epidemics were declared in Katwa and Butembo in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Political conflict that has occurred in the DRC has only delayed solutions for possible treatments. However, new Ebola drugs that have recently been tested in these areas could help decrease the number of those who suffer from the virus.
In Aug. 2018, an Ebola epidemic was declared in the DRC. Since then, more than 900 people have been infected in the DRC alone and more than 500 people have died. Those who are diagnosed with Ebola typically have fevers, aches, diarrhea, vomiting, rashes and possible internal bleeding. The incubation period for the virus can last from two to 21 days.
It has been difficult to contain the epidemic in the DRC — which is the second-largest outbreak recorded in history — due to ongoing political conflict in the area. For instance, protesters robbed and burned down an Ebola treatment center in the city of Beni in late December. These events were caused by the DRC’s government blocking more than 1 million citizens from voting in a presidential election in order to prevent the virus from spreading to other areas.
Front-line responders who are responsible for treating Ebola victims also constantly face death threats by protesters, which has slowed the treatment process enormously. Data from the World Health Organization (WHO) showed that 43 percent of individuals who died of Ebola were found in their communities instead of being isolated in hospitals in late stages of the illness when Ebola is the most contagious. When the virus goes untreated and is not isolated during the most contagious stages, it only spreads the virus further.
Four new Ebola treatments are currently being used in randomized trials in both Katwa and Butembo. The drugs that will be used as treatments in these trials include remdesivir, mAb114, REGN-EB3 and ZMapp. These trials are being observed by a committee created by WHO, led by the National Institute of Biomedical Research of DRC and the U.S. National Institute of Health, along with other organizations. The treatment centers in both areas have admitted more than 2,100 people who have been diagnosed with the virus, and about 110 individuals so far are currently recovering.
The number of people who are currently suffering from Ebola in Katwa and Butembo, along with the unfortunate political climate that surrounds the DRC makes it seem like an overwhelmingly negative situation. However, the new drug treatments that are being offered in both areas will hopefully lead to a positive outcome. About 110 people so far have been recovering, and if these treatments continue to be successful, many more will be able to benefit. This will most likely be a long process to end the outbreak completely, but the new Ebola drugs is a good start to help end the epidemic in the Congo.
– Maddison Hines