The government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has declared an Ebola outbreak after at least two, and as many as 17, people have died from hemorrhagic fever in the last five weeks. On the same day, the White House proposed rescinding more than $250 million from the Ebola outbreak response.
Local health officials reported 21 patients showing signs of hemorrhagic fever. Of five samples collected by the Ministry of Health in DRC, two tested positive for the Ebola virus, reports the World Health Organization (WHO). It’s not yet known whether the other 15 deaths were due to the virus or not, and officials say more samples are being collected.
It will be the nation’s ninth outbreak since the virus was discovered in 1976. Last year, eight cases of the virus were reported, resulting in four deaths. Just three years earlier, the deadliest occurrence of the disease broke, killing more than 11,000 people while infecting more than 28,000 across western Africa – five times more than all other outbreaks combined.
WHO experts say a strategic and quick deployment is necessary to combat the virus
“Working with partners and responding early and in a coordinated way will be vital to containing this deadly disease,” said Dr Peter Salama, WHO deputy director-general for emergency preparedness and response, in a statement. The organization released $1 million from its Contingency Fund for Emergencies to set up an Incident Management System, deploy specialists, notify neighboring countries, and support response efforts to stop the virus’ spread over the next three months.
Meanwhile, President Trump says the cuts to funding will make the US “government leaner and more accountable”. The $252 million dollars are from excess funds remaining from the 2015 Ebola outbreak response, which was from a $5.4 billion sum Congress appropriated for the 2015 epidemic. Trump's total federal spending cut request, totaling more than $15 billion, is the single largest rescissions request in history.
Ebola cases are difficult to diagnose and require lab testing to confirm. Symptoms are often indistinguishable from other common illnesses like typhoid or malaria, causing fever, body aches, diarrhea, and sometimes bleeding inside and outside the body. Only a small number of patients die from hemorrhaging as the virus usually kills through severe dehydration. Transmitted to people from wild animals, the virus spreads in human populations through direct contact with blood and bodily fluids. In Africa, the disease has also been shown to spread through the handling of bushmeat.
Congress now has 45 days to act. If they vote it down or ignore it, the funds will simply be spent as intended.