The second largest, second most deadly Ebola eruption in history has spread to a big city.Butembo, a lively city with…
The second largest, second most deadly Ebola eruption in history has spread to a big city.
Butembo, a lively city with nearly a million people in the East Democratic Republic of the Congo, reports an increasing number of cases of Ebola viral diseases in the country’s current epidemic. There has been a “significant increase” in infections over the past three weeks, with a total of 25 confirmed cases so far, according to Thursday’s bulletin from the country’s Ministry of Health.
Butembo is a central trade and transport center with links to other major cities in the country and to neighboring Uganda. It is about twice as big as the city of Beni, the epicenter of the outbreak, and is only 35 kilometers away. The Ministry of Health said that “high density and mobility” of the Butembos population presents new confinement challenges, already complicated by sporadic rebel attacks on remote villages in and around Beni.
Since the outbreak declared on August 1
So far, there have been 273 deaths, including 225 people who died from confirmed cases of Ebola. The other deaths are probably from Ebola, the Ministry said.
The ongoing outbreak is one of the world’s worst, others only for 2014-2016 outbreaks in several West African countries that infected 28,652 people and killed 11,325, according to data from the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Ebola is endemic to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This is the 10th outbreak and the worst country has seen since 1976, the year when researchers first identified the deadly virus near the eponymous Ebola River.
“No other epidemic in the world has been as complex as the one we are currently experiencing,” said the Democratic Republic of Congo, Minister of Health, Dr. Oly Ilunga Kalenga, in a statement last month.
The World Health Organization was approved to administer a experimental Ebola vaccine, using a “ring vaccination” approach around the epicenter of the current outbreak. More than 40,000 people, including healthcare professionals and children, have been vaccinated in the field of eruption since 8 August, according to the country’s Ministry of Health.
The vaccine, developed by the American drug company Merck, has proven to be effective against the country’s earlier eruptions in the western province of Equateur.
The number of Ebola cases in the current outbreak would probably have exceeded 10,000 if there was no vaccination act, the Ministry announced Thursday.
North Kivu and Ituri, where reported, are among the most populated provinces in the Democratic Republic of Congo. They are also convinced of violence and insecurity, especially in the mineral-rich border areas where milestone activity has increased over the past year, which complicates the international response to the Ebola eruption.
The security situation in the region has sometimes stymied response efforts. At the same time, healthcare professionals fight inaccurate information and distrust of the locals, partly because of many years of conflict in the region.
There is a reluctance among some cautious residents to seek care or allow healthcare professionals to vaccinate, conduct contact tracking and perform safe funerals. This resistance has been expressed more violently than usual during earlier Ebola eruptions, according to the Ministry of Health. A “foreign minority population” in these areas has destroyed medical equipment and health centers and has even attacked workers, the Ministry said Thursday.
The epidemic is expected to be “several” more months and the risk of proliferation will remain high until the eruption is completely stamped, according to the Ministry.