Christopher Black/AP
A 43-year-old Congolese patient, right, who has been confirmed to have Ebola hemorrhagic
fever, is comforted by a Doctors Without Borders nurse.

To Fend Off Ebola, Angola Closes Borders

January 06, 2009 04:15 PM
by Sarah Amandolare
Angola has shut its borders in response to an Ebola outbreak in the Congo, a vastly different response than Zimbabwe’s reaction to the ongoing cholera crisis.

Fighting Ebola

The oil-rich but largely impoverished African country of Angola has shut a portion of its border with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to prevent the spread of the Ebola virus. Angola’s quick and definitive response is in stark contrast to Zimbabwe’s approach to its cholera epidemic.

According to Reuters, Angolan health minister Jose Van-Dunem said “all trade and movement of people from … Lunda Norte to the DRC” would be banned. Since November 2008, 40 people in the DRC have been suspected of being infected and 13 have died from Ebola.

The situation draws comparisons to the Zimbabwean government’s handling of the cholera epidemic. Zimbabwe declared a state of emergency and sought international assistance in early December to deal with the outbreak. But later that month, despite conflicting reports and the collapse of Zimbabwe’s hospitals, schools and sanitation services, President Robert Mugabe said the cholera epidemic was over.

Although the outbreak of Ebola is far less severe than the cholera epidemic at this point, Angola is taking a much more proactive approach to protecting its people than Zimbabwe has.

Background: The Ebola virus and the Congo

The DRC hosts various diseases, “including malaria, schistosomiasis, bacterial and protozoal diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever,” and the average life expectancy for its people is just 54 years, according to the blog Avian Flu Diary. Ebola outbreaks are “occasional” and public health services are “minimal” or “non-existent.”

According to Science Daily, the DRC (then Zaire) and Sudan experienced the “first human Ebola outbreaks” in the late 1970s. The mortality rate of the so-called Zaire strain of Ebola virus is roughly 88 percent. Gorilla and chimp carcasses infected with the virus likely spread Ebola to humans.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains the Ebola virus in further detail, including where the virus is found, how it’s spread, the symptoms of Ebola, diagnosis and treatment information, and challenges for control and prevention of the Ebola virus.

Reference: Angola


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