By Julie Steenhuysen
CHICAGO (Reuters) – Ebola experts from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are ready to go to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where an Ebola outbreak has spread to a major African city, increasing the risk of a global outbreak.
The CDC, which played a major role in responding to the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa, already has experts in a field office in Kinshasa, the capitol of the Democratic Republic of Congo, who are working with the health ministry there, CDC spokesman Tom Skinner said.
The World Health Organization (WHO) warned on Friday that the DRC faced a “very high” public health risk from the outbreak, which has already killed 25 people.
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.
“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.”
As part of its Global Outbreak Alert & Response Network, the World Health Organization asked the CDC for a list of about a dozen experts in epidemiology, diagnostics and healthcare worker safety who are ready to travel to the hot zone if asked to do so by WHO, Skinner said.
On Monday, WHO said it had received permission from the DRC to import and use an experimental Ebola vaccine in the country. Vaccinations could begin by next Monday.
There are no direct flights between DRC and the United States.
Skinner said the CDC was monitoring the situation and planned to post notices to travelers in airports on the way to DRC and traveling back to the United States on any flights that originated in the DRC.
Inbound travelers would be reminded to avoid contact with other people’s blood or body fluids and to seek treatment immediately if they develop symptoms of Ebola, which include fever, headache, body aches, sore throat, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain, rash or red eyes during or after travel.
The CDC’s actions so far are part of the standard response during such outbreaks, Skinner said.
(Reporting by Julie Steenhuysen; Editing by Toni Reinhold)