Ebola outbreak in DRC may get worse, WHO warns

Response efforts at critical point

The protracted outbreak of Ebola Virus Disease in the Democratic Republic of Congo, DRC, may get worse and reverse progress against the virus if fighting continues around the disease hotspots of Beni and Butembo, the World Health Organisation, WHO, has warned.

Giving the warning in an update, weekend, Director General of the WHO, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said protests at government buildings spilling over to an Ebola transit centre, frightened people waiting for Ebola test results and the staff who were caring for them.

“We have reached a critical point in the Ebola response. After an intensification of field activities, we were seeing hopeful signs in many areas, including a recent decrease in cases in Beni.

Ebola

“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.

Tedros warned that  teams in Beni and Butembo are doing everything possible to continue responding, despite the challenging security environment. For example, in Beni, contact tracing is being resumed with the support of local community relays, and WHO is supporting local health authorities to undertake other critical surveillance functions where possible.

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Working side by side with the Ministry of Health and our partners, our priority is to end the outbreak. We hope to return to full operations as soon as possible while remaining committed to ensuring the safety of all staff deployed. We cannot afford to take a step back at this critical point in the response.

Unconfirmed reports say at least 400 deaths have occurred although WHO confirmed 356 deaths from almost 600 confirmed cases. One-fifth of the cases have occurred within the past three weeks.

The latest outbreak of the Ebola virus in the DRC is the 10th  witnessed by the country since the first outbreak in 1976 and it has already been rated the worst in the country’s history and 2nd worst outbreak ever, after the 2014 West Africa outbreak that recorded more than 28,000 confirmed cases.

Ebola spreads through contact with bodily fluids and causes haemorrhagic fever with severe vomiting, diarrhoea and bleeding.

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

Protests at government buildings in Beni spilled over to an Ebola transit centre, frightening people waiting for Ebola test results and the staff who were caring for them.

Staff at the centre temporarily withdrew and most suspected cases were transferred to a nearby treatment centre,” Tedros said.“



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