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If Violence Persists, Ebola Progress in Congo Will Be Lost: WHO

In Butembo, health workers were unable to give vaccinations or trace people who may have come into contact with the disease — a critical part of preventing its spread. 

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Ebola, congo, fighting
Health care workers enter a house where a baby suspected of dying of Ebola is, during the baby's funeral in Beni, North Kivu province, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Dec. 18, 2018. VOA

Progress in fighting Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Ebola outbreak, the second worst ever, will be reversed if fighting continues around the disease hot spots of Beni and Butembo, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) said Friday.

“We have reached a critical point in the Ebola response,” WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement. “After an intensification of field activities, we were seeing hopeful signs in many areas, including a recent decrease in cases in Beni.

“These gains could be lost if we suffer a period of prolonged insecurity, resulting in increased transmission. That would be a tragedy for the local population, who have already suffered too much.”

Congo, ebola, fighting
Beni, Democratic Republic of Congo. VOA

The disease has killed 356 of the 585 people infected during the almost six-month outbreak, and one-fifth of the cases have occurred within the past three weeks, according to a weekly update from WHO.

The epidemic in a volatile part of DRC is now surpassed only by the 2013-16 outbreak in West Africa, where more than 28,000 cases were confirmed.

Congo has suffered 10 Ebola outbreaks since the virus was discovered there in 1976. It spreads through contact with bodily fluids and causes hemorrhagic fever with severe vomiting, diarrhea and bleeding.

On Thursday, Congo’s Health Ministry said 24 patients fled an Ebola treatment center in Beni when it came under attack by people protesting the cancellation of voting in the eastern city in Sunday’s presidential election.

Ebola, Baby, fighting
A health care worker carries a cross next to a coffin with a baby suspected of dying of Ebola in Beni, North Kivu Province of Democratic Republic of Congo, Dec. 13, 2018. VOA

“Protests at government buildings in Beni spilled over to an Ebola transit center, frightening people waiting for Ebola test results and the staff who were caring for them. Staff at the center temporarily withdrew and most suspected cases were transferred to a nearby treatment center,” Tedros said.

Health teams in Beni were prevented from carrying out critical field work, including vaccinations, tracing of potential Ebola carriers, and following up on alerts of potential new cases.

Also Read: The Young Miracle: Baby In Congo Suffering From Ebola Recovers

In Butembo, health workers were unable to give vaccinations or trace people who may have come into contact with the disease — a critical part of preventing its spread.

In other areas, the fight against Ebola has continued, and local communities have been generally supportive of the health teams, Tedros said. (VOA)

Next Story

U.N. Secretary-General to Travel to Epicenter of Ebola Outbreak in Democratic Republic of Congo

The DRC is no stranger to periodic outbreaks of the Ebola virus, but this most recent epidemic is the worst the African nation has seen in 40 years

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FILE - Health workers begin their shift at an Ebola treatment center in Beni, Democratic Republic of Congo, July 16, 2019. The Ebola outbreak has been declared an international emergency after it spread to eastern Congo's biggest city, Goma, this week. VOA

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will travel to the epicenter of an Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo next week.

The DRC is no stranger to periodic outbreaks of the Ebola virus, but this most recent epidemic is the worst the African nation has seen in 40 years.

The World Health Organization says the country has recorded more than 2,800 confirmed cases and at least 1,900 deaths from the virus, which spreads primarily through contact with the blood, body fluids and tissues of infected fruit bats or monkeys.

Guterres plans to visit the country for three days, arriving Aug. 31. His spokesman, Stephane Dujarric, told reporters that Guterres wants to assess the situation and mobilize additional support for the response.

UN, Ebola, Outbreak
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will travel to the epicenter of an Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo next week. Pixabay

“In the province of North Kivu, he is scheduled to meet with Ebola survivors and health workers during a visit to an Ebola treatment center,” Dujarric said.

He also is to meet with Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi in the capital, Kinshasa.

In July, the WHO declared the Ebola outbreak to be a public health emergency of international concern.

The majority of cases have been concentrated in North Kivu and Ituri provinces, in the country’s northeast, but cases have emerged in other parts of the country.

Also Read- Microplastics Contained in Drinking Water Pose “Low” Risk to Human Health at Current Levels

At least three cases were also confirmed in June in neighboring Uganda. The people infected with the virus there had traveled from the DRC and had been in contact with a relative who died of Ebola. (VOA)