The United States has increased the funding it will send to the Democratic Republic of the Congo in response to the recent Ebola virus outbreak by $7 million, the State Department announced on Tuesday.
This amount is in addition to the $1 million the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) announced it was dedicating to the Ebola effort in the Congo.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said the death toll has reached 27, including a nurse who was caring for victims. Three more health workers are among the 58 cases identified in that West African nation.
The U.S. made the announcement it would increase funding at the World Health Assembly in Geneva, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo authorizing a $5 million expenditure from the State Department.
“This will bring U.S. funding to help combat the most recent outbreak of this deadly disease to a total of up to $8 million at this stage,” a State Department statement said. “The funds will support the World Health Organization’s plan to provide a rapid, localized outbreak control.”
“The plan consists of surveillance, case investigation, contact tracing, case management, safe burials, community engagement, and social mobilization,” the statement said.
The statement also thanked the Congolese government for being proactive in taking steps to avoid a global health crisis and encouraged “international partners” to contribute to the effort to end the latest outbreak “as well as to long-term global health security capacity building efforts aimed at preventing future crises.”
The Congolese government has increased its funding to fight the disease by more than $4 million, AP reported.
Reuters reported that Ebola experts from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are being deployed to the Congo now that the virus has spread to an urban area, which does increase the risk of a global outbreak.
The CDC played a major role in the last Ebola outbreak in Africa in 2014 and already has experts in a field office in Kinshasa, the Congolese capital, where experts are working with local health officials, CDC spokesman Tom Skinner said in the Reuters report.
“Earlier this week the CDC issued a level 1 travel alert for the DRC, Skinner said, warning travelers that there is a disease outbreak and to take precautions,” Reuters reported.
“Right now, we’re thinking the risk of importation of Ebola to the United States is very low,” Skinner said. “We’re not recommending any additional border intervention or enhanced screening at the moment.”
Aside from treating victims, a vaccination effort is underway in the Congo, with some 7,500 doses already being distributed, WHO said on Monday. An additional 8,000 doses of the vaccine will be available in the coming days, the AP report said.
Although the vaccine, provided by the U.S. pharmaceutical company Merck, is still in the test stages, it proved effective in the last Ebola outbreak in the West African nations of Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia that resulted in the deaths of more than 11,000 people.
“This is Congo’s ninth Ebola outbreak since 1976 when the disease was first identified,” AP reported. “The virus is initially transmitted to people from wild animals, including bats and monkeys. It is spread via contact with bodily fluids of those infected.”
The Ebola fatality rate is as high as 90 percent, depending on the strain, according to AP.