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WHO AFRO Outbreaks and Other Emergencies Week 17: 20 - 26 April 2020 Data as reported by: 17:00; 26 April 2020

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This Weekly Bulletin focuses on public health emergencies occurring in the WHO African Region. The WHO Health Emergencies Programme is currently monitoring 109 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

  • Lassa fever in Nigeria

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:

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve rapidly in Africa, with over 30 000 confirmed cases and 1 414 deaths reported across 52 countries. Only Comoros and Lesotho in the WHO African Region are still apparently free of the disease.

A few countries in the region are beginning to experience large widespread community transmission, with increasing mortality. While significant efforts are ongoing in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, countries are reminded to ensure continuity of essential health services, including routine immunization, malaria prevention and control and access to care for pregnant women. During the 2014-2016 Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa, more people lost their lives to common diseases such as malaria than to Ebola, and a similar mistake must not be repeated. Innovative approaches should be explored to deliver essential health services against the backdrop of the various restrictive measures being implemented.

The outbreak of Ebola virus disease in Democratic Republic of the Congo has locally re-emerged in Beni Health Zone, with a total of six new cases since the 10 April 2020, four of whom have died, two in the community and two in treatment centres. Beni remains the only affected zone, the remaining 28 previously affected health zones having reported no new confirmed cases in the past 42 days. Contact follow-up is ongoing in Beni, with vaccination of a further 494 people, along with enhanced infection prevention and control activities and community sensitization and engagement.

The Lassa fever outbreak in Nigeria has greatly improved, with continuous downward trend in the past 10 weeks. However, there is little room for complacency as the conditions for disease spread remain prevalent in the country. The local and national authorities need to remain vigilant and sustain active surveillance and preventive measures at community level.