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Cablegate: Drc Ebola Epidemic Update

VZCZCXRO1551
OO RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHGI RUEHHM RUEHJO RUEHLN RUEHMA RUEHMR RUEHPB
RUEHPOD RUEHRN
DE RUEHKI #1121/01 2620602
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 190602Z SEP 07
FM AMEMBASSY KINSHASA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 6908
INFO RUEHZN/ENVIRONMENT SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHXR/RWANDA COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY PRIORITY
RUEAUSA/DEPT OF HHS WASHDC PRIORITY
RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KINSHASA 001121

SIPDIS

SIPDIS, SENSITIVE

HHS PASS TO CDC

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAID ECON SENV TBIO PGOV CG
SUBJECT: DRC EBOLA EPIDEMIC UPDATE

REF: A. KINSHASA 1075
B. KINSHASA 1085
C. KINSHASA 1094

1. (SBU) Summary. The Ebola fever epidemic in south-central DRC has
now claimed 172 lives. Nearly 400 suspected cases remain clustered
around the towns of Mweka and Luebo in the West Kasai province.
Unconfirmed cases have been reported as far as 300 kms from the
epicenter, some little more than 50 kms from the Angolan border. CDC
epidemiologists visited the epidemic epicenter and environs and
reported finding a difficult environment and challenging
circumstances in which to respond to the outbreak. A GDRC-chaired
coordinating committee, including MOH, CDC, USAID, and WHO
representatives, is meeting daily. The GDRC has presented its
action plan and budget figures to donors and partners, and CDC and
Post are responding, including the arrival of a 10-member CDC team
from Atlanta.
End summary.

---------------------------------------------
Latest Numbers and Possible Geographic Spread
---------------------------------------------

2. (SBU) As of September 18, the number of suspected cases of Ebola
fever has risen to 380 and the number of confirmed deaths due to
Ebola is now at 172. This 45 percent lethality rate is considered
to be low, but may be due to an overestimation of the actual
caseload. Suspected and confirmed cases remain centered around the
original epicenter of the village of Kampungu, but rumored cases are
being investigated as far away as Kananga (125 kms southeast), the
regional with over half a million inhabitants, Tshikapa (125 kms
south), an artisanal diamond mining center less than 75 kms from the
Angolan border, and Muena Ditu (300 kms southeast), along the main
train line to second city Lubumbashi in Katanga province.

----------------------------
CDC Field Visit to Epicenter
----------------------------

3. (SBU) Center for Disease Control (CDC) epidemiologists Luca
Flamigni and Peter Kilmarx visited Kampungu and environs September
13, 14 and briefed the Charge, Econcouns, and USAID/Health on
September 17. Flamigni (CDC/DRC) and Kilmarx (CDC/Atlanta, former
Peace Corps volunteer in this area 1983-86, and veteran of the
Kikwit Ebola epidemic of 1995) described the difficult circumstances
that CDC, World Health Organization (WHO), Medecins sans Frontieres
(MSF) and Congolese Ministry of Health (MOH) personnel are operating
in. Suspected Ebola cases are currently found mainly between the
West Kasai towns of Mweka (eight hours northwest of Kananga by car)
and Luebo (two hours south of Mweka by car). Landing strips in
Mweka and Luebo, both rarely used, are overgrown by vegetation,
frequented by grazing animals, and suitable only for planes able to
navigate rough ground and land/take off in short distances. Cargo
will be limited to approximately one ton per plane.

-------------------------------
Difficult Operating Environment
-------------------------------

4. (SBU) Kilmarx and Flamigni described villages with non-functional
health clinics (one of which, in the epicenter village of Kampungu,
is now the MSF headquarters) and towns with barely functional
hospitals. (Note: Luebo, divided in half by the Lulua river, and 30
minutes by car from the epicenter, has both an MOH and a Mission
hospital. End note.) Suspected cases are currently either in
mudblock "isolation wards" in villages such as Kampungu, or else in
bare-bone cement block wards in the Mweka and Luebo hospitals, with
little or no care/treatment and few precautions taken regarding
visitors. While MSF personnel were using appropriate personal
protective equipment (PPE) in Kampungu, these same measures were not
yet being used in the hospitals. Laboratory analysis, public health
messages, epidemic surveillance/tracking, sanitary conditions, and
coordination were judged as either poor or severely constrained by
the lack of logistics and infrastructure.

------------------------------------------
Coordinating Committee Meeting in Kinshasa
------------------------------------------

5. (SBU) Kilmarx and CDC/ DRC chief of party Karen Hawkins-Reed met
with the Minister of Health on September 17 and then Kilmarx
presented his technical findings and recommendations to the
assembled MOH-chaired Ebola Coordinating Committee. All parties
(GDRC, CDC, WHO) agreed to make Luebo, the nearest large town to the
epicenter of the epidemic, the location for the CDC laboratory and
epidemic response headquarters. WHO-sponsored Canadian laboratory
support will also be there. The Luebo Zone physician was designated

KINSHASA 00001121 002 OF 002


as the Ebola mission chief at the site. Isolation units will be
established according to need in the villages and towns affected.

----------------------------------
MOH Requests CDC, Donor Assistance
----------------------------------

6. (SBU) The MOH gave CDC a letter of invitation over the weekend.
The letter requests CDC assistance in areas of coordination, lab
services, epidemic containment/control, social mobilization, and
logistical support. The MOH Chief of Staff agreed to provide
mission orders for CDC field staff to facilitate their interactions
with local GDRD authorities. During the Coordinating Committee
meeting, MOH presented its proposed action plan and budget to
donors. Health Minister Makwenge Kaput recommended MOH and WHO
coordination on all funding issues.

------------------------
CDC and Embassy Response
------------------------

7. (SBU) The CDC team of ten (five laboratory technicians, three
epidemiologists, an epidemic investigator and an epidemic
communications expert) will be arriving September 18 and 19 with 56
pieces containing equipment and supplies. An additional two air
freight shipments from Atlanta will arrive September 18 and 22.
Embassy is in process of procuring needed logistical and
administrative support services and materials. USAID/OFDA is
preparing the disaster declaration and emergency funding request
cable, and this is expected to be sent on September 19. Post will
continue to provide daily updates based upon CDC sitreps and the
results of the daily Ebola Coordinating Committee meetings. The
Public Diplomacy section is preparing to coordinate with the CDC
communications expert to provide public information on USG
activities.

Brock

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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