Wednesday October 16, 2019

Ebola Epidemic To Spread in Eastern DRC, Claims WHO

The Ebola outbreak in North Kivu and Ituri provinces is the second largest in history after the 2014 epidemic in West Africa that killed more than 11,000 people.Prior to the recent incidents, progress was being made in containing the spread of the Ebola virus in the DRC.

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Ebola
A health worker in a protective suit walks past burned structures after attackers set fire to an Ebola treatment center run by Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) in the east Congolese town of Katwa, Democratic Republic of Congo, Feb. 25, 2019. (Meinie Nicolai/MSF) VOA

The World Health Organization (WHO) says the deadly Ebola virus is likely to spread in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo because of deteriorating security in conflict-ridden North Kivu and Ituri provinces.

The latest WHO figures put the number of Ebola cases at 885, including 555 deaths.

International efforts to stop the spread of the deadly Ebola virus in eastern DR Congo have hit a serious roadblock. The charity Doctors Without Borders has suspended its life-saving operations. The action follows attacks on two of its Ebola treatment centers this week — the first on February 24 in Katwa, followed by an attack three days later in Butembo.

Burned structures are seen after attackers set fire to an Ebola treatment center run by Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) in the east Congolese town of Katwa, Democratic Republic of Congo, Feb. 25, 2019. Picture taken February 25, 2019. (Laurie Bonnaud/MSF)
Burned structures are seen after attackers set fire to an Ebola treatment center run by Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) in the east Congolese town of Katwa, Democratic Republic of Congo, Feb. 25, 2019. Picture taken February 25, 2019. (Laurie Bonnaud/MSF) VOA

The World Health Organization called the attacks deplorable and said there is a great risk of the spread of the disease. During the attack on the facility in Butembo, four Ebola patients fled for their lives.

WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier said three of the patients have since returned, while one is still missing.

“If you want, the positive note is that all of these four patients were convalescent, that means they were already getting better,” he said. “Hence, they had a lower viral load, which makes it way less likely for further infections.But yes, it is highly important to find those people, that last patient and then, of course, immediately start the contact tracing and monitor the contacts these patients might have been in touch with.”

Ebola
International efforts to stop the spread of the deadly Ebola virus in eastern DR Congo have hit a serious roadblock. VOA

Lindmeier said the WHO remains committed to staying in the DRC until the job is done. However, he notes that an Ebola outbreak as complex as this one can only be managed collectively and by having all the partners on the ground. He added that it is normal to expect organizations to do whatever is necessary to protect their staffs.

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The Ebola outbreak in North Kivu and Ituri provinces is the second largest in history after the 2014 epidemic in West Africa that killed more than 11,000 people.Prior to the recent incidents, progress was being made in containing the spread of the Ebola virus in the DRC.

The WHO reports the disease is now largely under control in the former hot spots of Mangina, Beni, and Komanda.It says more than 250 people have been cured and 80,000 protected through vaccination. (VOA)

Next Story

WHO Reports Progress in Containing Ebola Outbreak in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo

It is impossible to predict where the outbreak is going to go next, said Ryan.

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WHO, Ebola, Outbreak
The executive Director of WHO Health Emergencies, Michael Ryan, says he is largely optimistic that aid workers are getting control of the Ebola outbreak in eastern Congo. VOA

The World Health Organization reports progress in containing the Ebola outbreak in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, but says many challenges to its elimination remain.  WHO reports the number of cases in the outbreak now stands at 3,207, including 2,144 deaths.

The executive Director of WHO Health Emergencies, Michael Ryan, says he is largely optimistic that aid workers are getting control of the Ebola outbreak in eastern Congo.  But, he says, it is impossible to say the outbreak is over.

“It is not.  It is impossible to predict where the outbreak is going to go next,” said Ryan. “But… I do–I would stand over the fact that we have significantly contained the virus in a much smaller geographic area.  Now we have to kill the virus.  The problem is, it is back in areas that are deeply insecure.”

In fact, the virus has come full circle.  Ryan notes the disease has moved from Butembo and other urban areas to the remote, rural town of Mangina, the epicenter of the outbreak.  He says the virus is back where it began when the Ebola outbreak was declared August 1, 2018.

WHO, Ebola, Outbreak
But, he says, it is impossible to say the outbreak is over. Pixabay

“So, essentially the virus is back in the same zone,” said Ryan. “So, the factors that allowed that virus to transmit at low intensity for a number of months, have not changed.  Deep insecurity, reticence amongst the population, distrust and many other factors continue to make this a very dangerous situation.  But a situation, for which I believe we are making significant progress at this time.”

Ryan says WHO is increasing the scale of its operation, engaging in active surveillance across North Kivu province and actively seeking new cases and tracing contacts to keep the virus from spreading.

He says more than 230,000 people have been vaccinated against the deadly disease and more lives are being saved among people infected with the virus who are coming to the treatment centers.

He says the fatality rate among the nearly 800 patients currently in Ebola treatment units is less than one third – a significantly better outcome than the two-thirds fatality rate reported for the disease overall.

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Still, this is the biggest Ebola outbreak in Africa since the epidemic across three West African countries in 2014 killed more than 11,000 people. (VOA)