Congo's Ebola outbreak now second largest in history

Faith Castro
December 1, 2018

The International Rescue Committee on Friday said an outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus in the Democratic Republic of Congo has become the second-worst in history.

The announcement came after a devastating week, when 13 cases were confirmed on Wednesday - a one-day record - and officials confirmed even newborn babies are catching the virus. Dozens of armed rebel groups are active, and their deadly attacks have forced responders to pause crucial containment work for days.

In 2013, the world witnessed the worst Ebola outbreak in Southern Guinea, from where it spread into neighbouring Liberia and Sierra Leone.

It's not clear how many people from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are tackling the outbreak from Congo's capital, almost 1,000 miles away. "The dynamics of conflict (mean). a protracted outbreak is. likely, and the end is not in sight".

Despite its conclusion, the committee emphasized in a statement that the Congolese government, World Health Organization and partners "must intensify the current response" to the ongoing outbreak and that this "should be supported by the entire worldwide community", or "the situation is likely to deteriorate significantly".

The epidemic disease is believed to have killed more 245 people, spread across 14 health zones with 426 cases of infection.

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Last month, the WHO heeded the recommendation of an expert advisory committee to not declare the Democratic Republic of the Congo's latest Ebola epidemic a public health emergency of worldwide concern - a proclamation that would have mobilized more resources and garnered global attention.

A World Health Organization worker administers a vaccination during the launch of a campaign aimed at beating an outbreak of Ebola in the port city of Mbandaka, Democratic Republic of Congo, on 21 May 2018.

Violence is common in the central African country and has made it hard to stop the Ebola outbreak - earlier in the same week eight United Nations peacekeepers and 12 local soldiers died in an ambush.

Some 38 people died after they had a hemorrhagic fever, but it couldn't be verified whether they died of Ebola because they were buried without an autopsy. "But the problem is, working in such an unstable area, you have to assure to safety of the vaccinators, and you have to be able to trace potential contacts, and get them vaccinated". "Is there potential for requiring global response?"

According to the ministry, nearly half of the 106 confirmed deaths were in the city of Beni which has a population of approximately 800,000 people.

The security situation in the region has at times limited the response efforts.

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