Ebola Update

WHO approves
rapid Ebola test

The WHO announced on 20 February that it has approved for use a rapid diagnostic test kit for Ebola that can provide results in 15 minutes and correctly identify 92% of patients infected by the disease that has killed more than 9,400 people, mainly in West Africa.

Earlier in Geneva, the UN health agency announced that it had “assessed and listed the ReEBOV Antigen Rapid Test Kit [manufactured by Corgenix Medical Corp of the United States] as eligible for procurement to Ebola affected countries”.

The test was evaluated under WHO’s Emergency Assessment and Use, a procedure established to provide minimum quality, safety and performance assurance for diagnostic products in the context of the Ebola emergency.

According to WHO, the new test, which can provide results within 15 minutes, “is able to correctly identify about 92% of Ebola infected patients and 85% of those not infected with the virus”.

In comparison, the turn-around time of current tests for Ebola can vary between 12 and 24 hours, it said.

WHO Spokesman Tarik Jašarević told reporters in Geneva that the new test was a little bit less accurate than the test that WHO was currently using, but it was easy to perform, it did not require electricity and it could be used in lower level healthcare facilities or in mobile units for patients in remote settings.

The WHO spokesman also said that a number of agencies, such as the Médecins Sans Frontičres (MSF), have expressed interest in purchasing it.

The current Ebola outbreak in West Africa has affected more than 23,000 people with over 9,400 deaths, mostly in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Meanwhile at UN headquarters, Dr Bruce Aylward, who leads WHO’s response on Ebola, and Dr David Nabarro, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on Ebola, briefed Member States on the need to maintain the robust response to get the number of cases to zero.

“As long as there is even one case of Ebola active in the human population, it’s a danger for everybody – it’s a problem for West Africa, it’s a problem for Africa and it’s a problem for the world, Dr Nabarro told reporters after their briefing.

“We must be fully engaged, all of us, until the last person with Ebola is treated and is cured.” The two doctors expressed their concerns about the recent slowdown in the pattern of decline in cases in January and February in the three most affected countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Referring to a graph showing that the four weeks prior to February 18 has seen more than 120 Ebola cases a week, Dr Aylward said “this is not what you want to see” and described the trend as “a very bumpy road” on the way to zero cases.

They also told reporters that the upcoming rainy season starting in April-May would complicate the situation as it could give the virus a chance to get ahead of the response.

Getting to zero

Dr David Nabarro, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on Ebola, told the United Nations General Assembly on 18 February that the final phase of “getting to zero” cases may well be the hardest, saying the hunt to track down the virus is “like looking for needles in haystacks”.

Dr Nabarro told reporters that having strong surveillance capabilities on the ground to identify people with Ebola, to confirm diagnosis, to quickly arrangement arrange effective treatment, to identify people that are their contacts and to keep those people under review for 21 days “is a really difficult task”, especially as these tasks must be coordinated through 63 different government structures in an area the size of France.

Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary-General, said: “Today, we face a critical turning point. The pattern of the Ebola outbreak has changed. 2015 has seen a significant decline in the number of new Ebola cases in the three affected countries.

“Let us provide the resources needed to get to zero.

“We are accelerating our work to reach the targets set by the Presidents of the Mano River Union on 15 February – zero cases in 60 days, by mid-April,” Ban said. Sam Kutesa, Assembly President, said that while the international community should feel heartened by the progress that has been made against the virus in the most affected countries – Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia – “we cannot yet claim triumph over Ebola”. With the rainy season quickly approaching, efforts must be redoubled in order to ensure a final, successful push for eliminating this epidemic but also, begin to direct attention to the region’s long-term recovery effort.

 Date of upload: 20th March 2015


                                               Copyright © 2015 MiddleEastHealthMag.com. All Rights Reserved.