This Weekly Bulletin focuses on public health emergencies occurring in the WHO African Region. The WHO Health Emergencies Programme is currently monitoring 107 events in the region. This week’s main articles cover key new and ongoing events, including:
Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in the WHO African Region
Ebola virus disease in Democratic Republic of the Congo
Measles in Central African Republic
For each of these events, a brief description, followed by public health measures implemented and an interpretation of the situation is provided.
A table is provided at the end of the bulletin with information on all new and ongoing public health events currently being monitored in the region, as well as recent events that have largely been controlled and thus closed.
Major issues and challenges include:
Cases of COVID-19 continue to rise rapidly across the WHO African Region, with 96% (45) of the 47 countries in the Region now reporting cases. Only Comoros and Lesotho have remained without the disease. The cumulative number of confirmed cases is close to 10 000 and the number of deaths is steadily growing, standing at 461. Eight countries (Algeria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal, and South Africa) have recorded a marked increase in confirmed cases in the past week. Most countries in the region are now experiencing local transmission, with the disease spreading from the capital cities to rural communities. Governments need to take strong action to prevent the current trend. The necessary and proven public health measures include finding new cases, providing care and isolation, contact tracing and isolation. In addition, all countries need to widely inform their populations to practice physical distancing, hand washing and cough etiquette.
On 10 and 13 April 2020, health authorities in Democratic Republic of the Congo confirmed two new cases of Ebola virus disease (EVD) in Beni Health Zone. This event comes 52 days after the country reported zero cases of Ebola and just days from the anticipated formal declaration of the end of the outbreak. While concerning, this event is not completely unexpected in a situation where continuing insecurity has made surveillance and response challenging.
Contacts have been identified and are being followed-up. This reinforces the importance of continued vigilance, surveillance and proven public health response measures in this outbreak.
The measles outbreak in Central African Republic appears to be starting to decline, with new cases in the past week confined to a health zone in which the reactive vaccination campaign has not yet started. However, there is no cause for complacency, as the outbreak is occurring in the context of an accumulation of susceptible diseases linked to poor immunization coverage during 2015 and 2019, when routine immunization cover was less than 75%. The current responsive vaccination campaigns will hopefully finally bring the outbreak to a close.