The World Health Organisation (WHO) has introduced five new experimental drugs to treat Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) following an Ebola outbreak in the country.
Authorities in DRC approved the use of the drugs on Monday, marking the first time such treatments have been available.
The WHO said four of the five approved drugs are currently in the country, which are Zmapp, GS-5734, REGN monoclonal antibody combination, and mAb114, under the framework of compassionate use and expanded access.
Clinicians working in the treatment centres will make decisions on which drug to use as deemed helpful for their patients, and appropriate for the setting.
The treatments can be used as long as informed consent is obtained from patients and protocols are followed, with close monitoring and reporting of any adverse events.
Earlier in May, WHO convened a group of independent scientific experts to evaluate investigatory therapeutics for EVD during the current outbreak in the DRC.
They found that there are many pathogens for which no proven effective intervention exists.
For some pathogens there may be interventions that have shown promising safety and efficacy in the laboratory and in relevant animal models, but that have not yet been evaluated for safety and efficacy in humans.
Under normal circumstances, such interventions undergo testing in clinical trials that are capable of generating reliable evidence about safety and efficacy.
WHO however, said in the context of an outbreak characterized by high mortality, it can be ethically appropriate to offer individual patients investigatory interventions on an emergency basis outside clinical trials.
According to WHO statistics, as of Wednesday, a total of 58 EVD cases have been reported, including 27 deaths, 37 lab-confirmed, 14 probable and seven suspected cases.
Information about the extent of the outbreak remains limited and investigations are ongoing.
Currently, WHO considers the public health risk to be very high at the national level, and also sets the risk at the regional level and at high level.
Globally, the risk is currently considered low, but WHO said as further information becomes available, the risk assessment will be reviewed.
Meanwhile, the DRC, the WHO and partners have also developed a comprehensive strategic response plan for points of entry to avoid the spread of the disease to other provinces or at the international level.
The plan includes mapping strategic points of entry and the locations of areas where travelers congregate and interact with the local population, and therefore are at risk of Ebola virus disease transmission based on population movement.
The plan involves implementing health measures at the identified points of entry or traveler congregation points, such as risk communication and community engagement, temperature checks, provision of hand hygiene and sanitation materials, and the development of alert, investigation and referral procedures.
The WHO, however, has noted that the Ebola outbreak does not currently meet the conditions for a public health emergency of international concern, and that there should be no international travel or trade restrictions.
Son Of Noted Muslim Preacher Shot In South Africa
In the coastal city of Durban on Wednesday, a South African activist and son of a deceased prominent Muslim preacher is fighting for his life in a hospital after he was shot outside a court.
65-year-old Yousuf Deedat – son of Sheikh Ahmed Deedat – was shot in the head as he walked towards the Verulam family court on the outskirts of Durban with his wife, Police colonel Thembeka Mbele said.
Deedat was rushed to a hospital for medical attention after an unknown suspect who fled in a car in an unknown direction opened fire, shooting him in the head.
On Wednesday, Deedat’s family said in a statement that “he is in critical condition in a local hospital. While his injuries remain severe, we remain hopeful for Deedat’s recovery.”
Yousuf’s father, Sheikh, who died in 2005 was known across the world as a respected public speaker and writer who published several widely-distributed booklets on Islam and Christianity.
Sheikh was a prominent South African Muslim missionary who held several interfaith public debates with evangelical Christians. He was the founder of the Islamic Propagation Centre International, which aims for Islam to be heard and understood across the world.
Police said they were still investigating the reason behind his shooting.
Locust Plague Devastates Crops In Horn Of Africa
Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said swarms of desert locusts have damaged tens of thousands of hectares across the Horn of Africa.
Bukar Tijani, FAO’s Assistant Director General, calling the swarms “vast and unprecedented,” adding that breeding is continuing on both sides of the Red Sea, in Sudan and Eritrea and in Saudi Arabia and Yemen.
Ethiopian farmer Ahmed Ibrahim whose small grazing plot had been devoured by locust said “we have nothing else to sell at the market. How will I feed my eight children?” he asked helplessly.
The swarms spread from Ethiopia and Somalia into eastern and northern Kenya last week, threatening food production and the economy, Kenya’s then-agriculture minister said, before being fired in a cabinet reshuffle on Tuesday.
A farmers’ association in Kenya’s northern Laikipia area said it was planning aerial spraying of pesticides to combat the worst locust plague since 1954. The FAO estimated one swarm in Kenya to be 40 km wide by 60 km long (25 by 40 miles).
Peter Learpanai, a herdsman in the northern Samburu region said “these things are in their millions and will eat all the vegetation here. Our animals will not have anything to feed on.”
He added that “the government needs to get serious about fighting them.”
Kenya: Kiunjuri, Rotich Out As President Reshuffles Cabinet
Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta has reshuffled his cabinet. The president announced the changes during his state of the nation address from the coastal city of Mombasa. Cabinet secretary for agriculture, Mwangi Kiunjuri has been removed and replaced by Peter Munya who is being moved from the ministry of trade.
Henry Rotich lost his position as cabinet secretary for treasury to Ukur Yattani who has been confirmed as substantive secretary. In the Tuesday shake-up, former Nyeri senator, Mutahi Kagwe, made a comeback after he was nominated as cabinet secretary for health, while environment principal secretary betty Maina was promoted to cabinet secretary for industrialization, trade and enterprise development.
Apart from the shuffling of cabinet ministers and principal secretaries, the president also made some nominations for principal secretaries in four other ministries. These nominations are expected to be approved by parliament.
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