Saturday October 19, 2019
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Armed Assailants Attack Newly Reopened Ebola Treatment Center in Congo

The attack in Butembo came in the early-morning hours and left one police officer dead and several workers injured

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congo, ebola treatment
Health workers are seen through a bullet hole left in the window of an Ebola treatment center, which was attacked in early on March 9, 2019, in Butembo, Democratic Republic of the Congo. VOA

Armed assailants on Saturday attacked an Ebola treatment center in the Democratic Republic of the Congo less than a week after it reopened following a previous attack. 

The attack in Butembo came in the early-morning hours and left one police officer dead and several workers injured. 

Butembo Mayor Sylvain Kanyamanda told reporters that security forces had defended the center and wounded one of the attackers. 

World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus visited the center several hours later and encouraged health care workers to continue fighting the deadly Ebola virus. 

“It breaks my heart to think of the health workers injured and police officer who died in today’s attack, as we continue to mourn those who died in previous attacks while defending the right to health,” Ghebreyesus told reporters. “We have no choice except to continue serving the people here, who are among the most vulnerable in the world.” 

After the previous attack on the Butembo center, Doctors Without Borders suspended its operations in the city.

congo, ebola treatment
A woman looks at burned equipement in an Ebola treatment center, which was attacked early on March 9, 2019, in Butembo, Democratic Republic of the Congo. VOA

Precautions stir doubts

Anti-Ebola efforts already have faced adversity from residents suspicious of the extensive precautions taken by the health care workers to stop the spread of the highly contagious disease. Because Ebola virus can be transmitted through a victim’s bodily fluids even after death, even burial of the victims requires stringent safety protocols.

Thursday, Doctors Without Borders President Joanne Liu said the containment efforts used to control the latest outbreak of Ebola, which started in August last year, faced a “climate of deepening community mistrust” that was worsened by the use of security guards at treatment centers.

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Congo’s health ministry has warned the attacks in Butembo and on another treatment center in Katwa last month can lead to a “significant upsurge” in new Ebola cases.

More than 86 percent of the confirmed cases over the past three weeks came from Butembo and Katwa, according to the health ministry.

The current outbreak is considered the worst since the two-year outbreak in West Africa that started in 2014 and killed more than 11,000 people. (VOA)

Next Story

Researchers in Uganda Launch Ebola Vaccine Trial for Two Years

The new vaccine is manufactured by U.S.-based Janssen and Janssen company

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FILE - A Ugandan health worker prepares to administer the Ebola vaccine to a man in Kirembo village, near the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo in Kasese district, Uganda, June 16, 2019. VOA

Eight hundred health workers involved in the fight against the Ebola virus are receiving doses of a two-part vaccine. Researchers who launched a trial this week for a new Ebola vaccine say the new vaccine trial will take two years to complete.

Dr. Juliet Mwanga, director of the Mbarara Research Center, said the vaccine combines antigen — a substance that induces an immune response in the body — from the Ebola virus, a common adenovirus, and the vaccinia Ankara vaccine. The new vaccine is manufactured by U.S.-based Janssen and Janssen company.

“This J and J vaccine aims at prevention — primary prevention before you have contact at all,” said Mwanga. “And the other difference, as I said, it has two parts. So, you’re given the first dose, and 56 days later, you get another dose, which boosts your immunity. So, hopefully it works for a longer time.”

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Deo Bakulu has been washing his hands every chance he gets since Ebola reached eastern Democratic Republic of Congo’s main city of Goma. VOA

Currently, Uganda is using an Ebola vaccine by the Merck pharmaceutical company, but Mwanga said they need to try out new vaccines, too. Uganda’s move is motivated by its proximity to the Democratic Republic of Congo, where more than 1,800 people have died from an Ebola outbreak that began a year ago.

ALSO READ: Medicare Uses Breakthrough Gene Therapy to Cover Some Blood Cancers

Dr. Kimton Opio, the coordinator of the trial, said the vaccine is being tested on 800 health care workers and front-line support workers who meet a few basic requirements. “Someone has to be 18 years and over,” he said. ” Then, of course, they have to be able to sign the  [consent] form. Then they must not have been vaccinated with Ebola before, or they must have not suffered from Ebola before.”

The researchers are hopeful the vaccine, if effective, will help Uganda and neighboring countries that have endured Ebola outbreaks. Uganda has seen no new cases of Ebola in recent weeks. But, health officials have been on high alert since June, when two adults and a five-year-old boy who had crossed into Uganda from the DRC died of the virus. (VOA)