- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 1, 2019

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday it has dispatched a dozen staff members to fight Ebola in Goma, a major transit hub that is the new flashpoint in the one-year fight against the deadly disease in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The 1-year-old daughter and wife of a man who died in Goma tested positive for Ebola, according to various reports Thursday, raising the level of alarm amid an outbreak that’s resulted in nearly 2,700 cases and more than 1,800 deaths in the DRC.

The CDC said it’s also positioned staff in the surrounding countries of South Sudan, Uganda and Rwanda, though it remains leery of dispatching front-line workers to conflict-ridden zones in northeastern DRC.

It said it is working with State Department officials on a “fluid” basis to determine whether it’s safe to dispatch U.S. workers, as needed, to affected areas outside of Goma.

If the security situation improves, “we could expand our staff even more,” said Henry Walke, the CDC’s director of preparedness and emerging infections.

In the meantime, the CDC is directing staff at the U.S. embassy in Kinshasa — the DRC capital — the World Health Organization headquarters in Switzerland and CDC headquarters in Atlanta to assist the effort from afar.

Researchers are supporting a clinical trial of four therapeutic drugs in the hot zone, and it is monitoring the success of a trial vaccine by Merck.

“This Ebola outbreak continues to be a complex and serious public health threat,” said CDC Director Robert R. Redfield. “CDC remains prepared for the prolonged journey ahead and remains committed to working with our U.S. government and international partners to support the response and end this outbreak.”

Ebola is a serious, often-fatal disease that is transmitted to people from wild animals and spreads from human to human through the bodily fluids of people who exhibit symptoms.

The DRC outbreak began Aug. 1, 2018, and is now second-worst on record after the massive West African outbreak in 2013-2016.

Responders have more tools than ever to combat the disease, including the trial vaccine and experimental drugs.

However, they’ve been held back by sectarian violence in the North Kivu region and community distrust of outsiders.

WHO recently declared the outbreak to be a global emergency, citing the risk of spread to neighboring countries.

U.S. officials said it doesn’t pose a threat to American shores right now, in part because there are no direct flights from DRC.

Yet Rwanda briefly closed its border as cases mount in Goma, despite WHO warnings against travel restrictions.

Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, reportedly halted visas from DRC out of fear it could affect the Hajj pilgrimage.

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

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