Wednesday July 17, 2019

Congo’s Escalating Ebola Epidemic Exceeds 1,000 Cases Making it World’s Second-Worst Outbreak

The International Rescue Committee (IRC), an aid group, cautioned that case numbers were on the rise and the outbreak could last another six to 12 months in a region beset by violence and poverty

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FILE - Health workers are seen inside the "red zone" of an Ebola treatment center, which was attacked in the early hours of March 9, 2019, in Butembo. VOA

Congo’s Ebola epidemic has now exceeded 1,000 cases, the country’s health ministry said Monday, with a death toll of about 629 in the world’s second-worst outbreak.

The International Rescue Committee (IRC), an aid group, cautioned that case numbers were on the rise and the outbreak could last another six to 12 months in a region beset by violence and poverty.

Here are some key facts and figures about Ebola:

* The world’s worst epidemic of Ebola, a hemorrhagic fever, began in Guinea in December 2013 and swept through Liberia and Sierra Leone, killing more than 11,300 people.

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The International Rescue Committee (IRC), an aid group, cautioned that case numbers were on the rise. Pixabay

* Ebola causes fever, flu-like pains, bleeding, vomiting and diarrhea and spreads among humans through contact with bodily fluids of an infected person.

* The world’s second-biggest outbreak of Ebola began in August 2018 in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

* By March 2019, Congo’s Ebola outbreak surpassed 1,000 cases with a death toll of 629 and spread to the city of Bunia, the second-largest city in eastern Congo.

* The IRC said in the past week there had been 58 new reported cases — the highest number in a week in 2019.

Congo’s Health Ministry said Monday that the Ebola epidemic has now exceeded 1,000 cases, with a death toll of 629. Pixabay

* Its staff were working in about 59 health clinics to train health workers to recognize symptoms and safely triage and transfer suspected Ebola patients to treatment centers.

* Five Ebola centers have been attacked since February 2019.

ALSO READ: 13 Million in Congo Suffer from ‘Hunger’ and ‘Malnutrition’: UN

* The head of medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) earlier in March warned that the battle against Ebola was being lost because ordinary people did not trust health workers and the response was overly militarized. (VOA)

Next Story

WHO: Rise of Ebola Epidemic in DRC’s Goma Could be a ‘Game Changer’

Participants at the meeting agree on the urgent need to stop the Ebola virus now

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A man receives a vaccine against Ebola from a nurse outside the Afia Himbi Health Center on July 15, 2019 in Goma. VOA

The head of the World Health Organization warns the spread of Ebola to a large city in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo could have dire consequences. The WHO chief spoke Monday at a high-level meeting that examined current efforts to contain the growing Ebola epidemic in Congo.

The Ebola outbreak in Congo’s conflict-ridden North Kivu and Ituri provinces is the second largest after the historic 2014 epidemic that killed 11,300 people in West Africa. As the first anniversary of the DRC epidemic draws near, the WHO reports nearly 2,500 people have been infected with the virus and 1,665 people have died.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says the effort to stop the spread of the disease has received another blow with the news that the first case of Ebola had been detected in the eastern Congolese city of Goma.

He says WHO was informed Sunday that a pastor who had traveled from Butembo was infected with the deadly virus.

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World Health Organization (WHO) director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (R) listens to a delegate at the end of a meeting organised the United Nations on the Ebola disease in DRC, on July 15, 2019, in Geneva. VOA

“The identification of the case in Goma could potentially be a game changer in this epidemic,” he said. “Goma is a city of two million people, near the border with Rwanda, and is a gateway to the region and the world.  We are confident in the measures we have put in place and hope that we will see no further transmission of Ebola in Goma.”

But Tedros agrees he cannot be sure of that.  And, so, he says he will reconvene a WHO Emergency Committee as soon as possible to determine whether Ebola in the DRC poses a global health threat.

The co-chair of this high-level conference, U.N. Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock, considers a lack of funding and eastern Congo’s dangerous security environment to be the two biggest threats to the anti-Ebola campaign.

Recently, two Ebola responders were murdered in their home in the Congolese city of Beni. On the financial front, he notes less than half of the money needed to run the Ebola containment operation has been received, leaving a funding gap of $50 million.

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FILE – Mwamini Kahindo, an Ebola survivor working as a caregiver to babies who are confirmed Ebola cases, holds an infant outside the red zone at the Ebola treatment center in Butembo, DRC, March 25, 2019. VOA

Lowcock warns it will not be possible to get to zero cases unless there’s a big upturn in the response.

ALSO READ: UN: Global Hunger Levels Stabilizing, While Obesity Rates are Skyrocketing

“If we do not get an increase in the funding available, treatment centers are going to close,” he said. “There will be fewer teams to conduct training or to give life-saving vaccinations.  There will be fewer mobile teams available to immediately investigate, isolate, treat and trace each new case no matter where the disease pops up.”

Participants at the meeting agree on the urgent need to stop the Ebola virus now. They say Goma is a warning that will test the health community’s response, preparedness and ultimate ability to prevent further cases of Ebola in that big urban center. (VOA)