Monday November 18, 2019

WHO Says, “About Quarter of Ebola Cases in Congo Going Undetected”

Health teams have been unable to reach some areas because of violence by rebel groups

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FILE - An Ebola health worker is seen at a treatment center in Beni, Eastern Congo, April, 16, 2019. VOA

The World Health Organization says it may be missing a quarter of all Ebola cases in eastern Congo as violent unrest complicates detection.

That estimate by WHO emergencies chief Dr. Michael Ryan on Thursday comes after aid groups expressed concern this week that the rate of new cases has been picking up speed.

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FILE – Victorine Siherya, 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, Democratic Republic of Congo, March 25, 2019. VOA

There have been more than 2,000 confirmed and probable cases of the Ebola virus since August, with nearly 1,400 deaths. Ryan told journalists in Geneva that WHO believes it is probably detecting only 75 percent of all Ebola cases.

ALSO READ: Ending Ebola Epidemic in Congo Fraught with Security Risks, Says WHO

Health teams have been unable to reach some areas because of violence by rebel groups. The teams also have come under attack by locals who mistrust foreigners and government officials in a long-volatile region far from the capital. (VOA)

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Congo: Volatile Security Situation Stymies Efforts to End Ebola

The World Health Organization says the number of Ebola cases has decreased and stabilized over the past few weeks.

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Patients waiting for prescriptions to be filled by the hospital pharmacy sit underneath a sign warning about the symptoms of Ebola, at Kibogora district hospital, near Lake Kivu and close to the border with Congo, in western Rwanda, Nov. 4, 2019. VOA

The World Health Organization says that dangers posed by armed groups in two eastern Democratic Republic of Congo provinces are impeding progress in the battle to stop the spread of the deadly Ebola virus.  Latest reports put the number of confirmed Ebola cases at 3,287, including 2,193 deaths.

International health workers have achieved a lot since the Ebola epidemic in eastern Congo was declared in August 2018. The World Health Organization says the number of Ebola cases has decreased and stabilized over the past few weeks.

While that is encouraging, WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier says “we are not out of the woods yet.”

“The risk of re-introduction of Ebola into former hotspots remains high and is…contingent on the level of access and security in these communities,” Lindmeier siad. “So, the outbreak has been and is occurring in an extremely complex environment, marked by poor infrastructure, political instability, as you heard, community mistrust of national authorities and outsiders and ongoing conflict involving scores of armed…militia groups.”

Congo, Security, Ebola
International health workers have achieved a lot since the Ebola epidemic in eastern Congo was declared in August 2018. Pixabay

Despite a recent decrease in the number of security incidents, attacks on health care workers and facilities remain unacceptably high.  From January to October, the WHO has documented more than 300 attacks, causing five deaths and 70 injuries of health care workers and patients.

And, last week, a health care worker was killed in his home and his wife critically injured.

The DRC has always been an area of high mobility. The armed conflict in the region has caused hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes.   But people move around for other reasons as well. Lindmeier tells VOA among those on the move are infected people who could spread the virus.

“Because they were moving, we cannot be too optimistic about ending this soon,” Lindmeier siad. “As I said in the beginning, the weekly number of cases have stabilized over the past few weeks, but we are not, definitely not out of the woods yet and should not cry victory…before we are at the end of this.”

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The WHO notes Ebola hotspots have shifted from urban areas to more rural, hard-to-reach communities.  It says that, plus the extremely volatile security situation, creates additional challenges in hunting down the virus. (VOA)