KINSHASA – Missionary Aviation Fellowship (MAF) pilots assisted the World Health Organization (WHO) in the process of identifying a new outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus in remote regions of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The MAF flew a medical team to the Mbandaka region to take test samples of what was rumored to be Ebola. The same MAF crew flew the samples back to Kinshasa where the virus was confirmed.
Following the confirmation, MAF has been flying medical personnel and supplies into the affected area. Those supplies included the very first Ebola vaccine doses to be used in a real-life outbreak.
The World Health Organization has labeled this outbreak as “sitting on an epidemiological knife-edge” with its ability to spread rapidly across the country and into other African nations as it did in the 2014-2016 epidemic. During that outbreak, more than 11,300 people died across Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia.
Although the numbers are constantly changing, there have been 54 cases of the disease discovered since 08 May 2018. Nearly 90 percent of the cases have been in the rural villages of Bikoro and Iboko. MAF has cooperated with WHO to ship thousands of doses of the new vaccine into those villages and in the city of Mbandaka
Government health officials have put the official death toll at nine, but the consensus is that the number of dead is closer to 22.
There is some encouragement based on the rural location of the outbreak. Healthcare workers would have a much more difficult time identifying victims and implementing the vaccination strategy in an urban area where it would require much more effort to embrace the spheres of influence of infected individuals to prevent the spread of the disease.
WHO officials announced today that nearly all the people whom they consider to be at immediate risk have now been vaccinated. Healthcare workers are beginning to be cautiously optimistic as there have been no explosive increases in cases since medical intervention and the ringfencing strategy have been implemented.
Ringfencing is a strategy whereby all people who may have had contact with patients are vaccinated. In addition, all people who have been in contact with an individual in the inner ring also receive vaccinations and are monitored for evidence of the virus.
In addition to their flights, the pilots believe that “It is an opportunity for us . . . to minister to some of the medical personnel that are going up there. We pray before each flight and so we pray for the people that we are flying, and we just pray God’s blessing on them and protection . . . the way that we show our care and compassion for the people who are going in there, that is one way that we can really express our love for them and the love of Christ as well.”
- Mission Network News, Ebola outbreak in DRC on “knife-edge”
- Al Jazeera, Ebola in the DRC: Everything you need to know
- CNN, Ebola outbreak 2018: What’s different this time?
- Reuters, Almost all in Congo city at immediate risk of Ebola now vaccinated -WHO
- By CDC/ Ethleen Lloyd [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons