U.S. officials end visit to DRC Ebola region; cases rise to 3,129

Sept. 18, 2019

Total Ebola cases in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) grew by 19 cases, reports University of Minnesota Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP). U.S. government officials who recently visited the outbreak area voiced their support for not only the outbreak response but also for the country's overall health system.

A U.S. government delegation, including Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Robert Redfield, MD, and National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Director Anthony Fauci, MD, recently toured an Ebola treatment center in Butembo. The officials were accompanied by World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Gebreyesus, PhD, and United Nations (UN) Emergency Ebola Response Coordinator David Gressly.

According to Health and Human Services (HHS), the group observed infection prevention and control measures, spoke to healthcare providers about patient care, and heard from Ebola responders and health workers about the challenges they face because of community mistrust and security problems in the area. The visit also included discussions with local community leaders, including representatives from a women's association, a commerce group, and cultural groups.

Azar said in a statement that the U.S. recognizes that, alongside Ebola, the DRC is also battling other diseases, including measles, malaria, HIV, tuberculosis, and cholera, and he voiced strong U.S. government commitment to ending the Ebola outbreak and working with local and community leaders. At a community meeting, Azar said, "The U.S.A. is here for you not just for Ebola, but also healthcare after Ebola."

At a media telebriefing, Azar and other US officials, including some from the State Department, shared their impressions of the visit. Azar said after observing patient care and meeting with health workers at the Ebola treatment center, "I can't overstate the importance of the two therapeutics." The drugs are Regeneron's REGN-EB3, an antibody cocktail, and mAB114, an antibody treatment developed from a DRC patient who survived Ebola during an earlier outbreak.

Azar added that the officials witnessed patients treated with the drugs be discharged from the Ebola treatment unit upon their recoveries. "That is a radical change from where we've been," he said.