An outbreak in two eastern provinces in the Democratic Republic of Congo has become the most known epidemic of the…
An outbreak in two eastern provinces in the Democratic Republic of Congo has become the most known epidemic of the lethal Ebola virus in its history.
The Congolese Ministry of Health said in a statement Saturday that 326 people had been infected with the Ebola virus in northern Kivu and Ituri provinces.
It makes this outbreak worse than an epidemic in 1976 in Yambuku, which infected 318 people and left 280 dead. The outbreak was the first time researchers identified what is now known to be the deadliest strain of the Ebola virus. An outbreak in Kikwit city of 1995 infected 315 people, of whom 250 were killed.
The current outbreak is now the third worst Ebola epidemic in modern history. An outbreak of West African from 201
3 to 2015 infected more than 28,600 people mainly in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. An outbreak in Uganda in 2000 of the Sudan strain of the Ebola virus infected more than 400 people.
After they were initially shown under control, the number of cases in northern Kivu province in September and October increased worrying public health professionals worldwide. In a briefing at Capitol Hill last week, Robert Redfield, Director of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, warned that the outbreak could spread so much that the Ebola virus could endemic to Central Africa.
The Congolese Ministry of Health, the World Health Organization and non-governmental groups such as the Red Cross and MSF have sent hundreds of people to the epicenter of the outbreak. They have vaccinated more than 28,000 people, including those who have come into contact with Ebola victims and primarily healthcare professionals who would be most susceptible to the virus.
But the response has been partially weakened by a volatile security situation where dozens of armed groups opposed to the government have threatened or attacked health workers.
A bombing at the end of August blamed on Islamic militants from Uganda’s border, closing the reply in the city of Beni for several days, so that viruses spread further. Last month, two medical staff were hired by the Congolese military in a hiding place.
“No other epidemic in the world has been as complicated as the one we are currently experiencing. Since their arrival in the region, the respondents have exposed threats, physical abuse, repeated destruction of their equipment and kidnapping,” said Oly Ilunga Kalenga, Congolese healthcare, in a statement.
The current eruption began at the end of July, probably when the virus spread at a funeral through the family to a woman who had become ill. The virus later spread to Beni, a regional trade center of about a quarter of a million inhabitants , From which it spread to Butembo, an international trade center on the border with Uganda.
About half of the cases identified to date 159 have been identified in Beni. Another 36 have been identified in Butembo. The World Health Organization has sent assistance to Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan waiting for the chance that the virus could cross international borders.
“There is still a challenging way forward to control intensive transfer in the city of Beni and emerging hotspots in villages around Beni and Butembo,” said the World Health Organization in a weekly assessment of the situation on the ground.
North Kivu is home to about eight million people, of which about one million internally displaced after the years of ethnic conflict. It is the largest province in Congo outside the capital Kinshasa.
Oliver Johnson, a visiting lecturer in global health at King’s College London and co-author of “Getting to Zero”, a book about 2014-2015 Ebola eruptions in West Africa said the conflict in eastern Congo has caused mistrust of the government in Kinshasa and by all international groups that may come in place to try to help.
“There is much suspicion that the messages about Ebola and the outbreak are fake and part of a conspiracy, making it very difficult to persuade people to seek treatment or change behaviors to protect themselves,” Johnson said in an email Sunday. “There is a real challenge to respond to getting physical access to the affected communities, that is, gathering a sick patient through an ambulance to take them to a treatment center, to engage in communities to prevent further spread or to distribute the vaccine.”
The violence in northern Kivu has limited the US response to the outbreak. Following an attack on a Congolese Army base in August, the Department ordered responses from the United States International Development Agency and the Center for Disease Prevention and Prevention outside the area, first to the capital Goma and then to Kinshasa, 1 700 miles away from the outbreak epicenter.
Moves CDC field staff back to the capital “sets the response to risk of failure at a critical time,” said Johnson.
The World Health Organization said 29 new cases had appeared in the region over just the past week. Three healthcare staff were among the new victims.
WHO said the risk of the virus spreading over domestic or international borders “is very high”. The Ministry of Health has deployed emergency preparedness experts to ten provinces around Nordkivu.
Health Officers keep an eye on more than 5400 people who have come into contact with Ebola victims, an exercise called contact tracing, aiming at getting new cases in treatment at first signs of infection.
“The epidemic remains dangerous and unpredictable, and we must not keep our guard,” said health minister Ilunga Kalenga. “We must continue to drive a very dynamic response that requires permanent adjustments and genuine ownership at Community level.”