Death toll crosses 350; American doctor quarantined; aid work suffers due to violence
More than 350 deaths and over 600 cases in total has led to a scare that the Democratic republic of Congo is facing the second-biggest Ebola outbreak, bringing back memories of 2014.
The current round, from last August, has been marked by protests against a delay in holding elections in the central African country, internal violence as well as attack on aid workers, which led to International Rescue Committee and Oxfam temporarily suspending aid efforts.
An American doctor, meanwhile, has been taken to a secure area at Nebraska Medical Centre after he was exposed to a patient who tested positive for the deadly viral disease.
The latest outbreak is concentrated in the North Kivu province, including cities like Beni, Kalunguta and Mabalako, according to World Health Organization (WHO). Cases have also been reported in Nyankunde Health Zone in neighboring Ituri province.
On December 27, 2018, protests in Beni spilled over to an Ebola transit centre, frightening patients and staff, forcing the staff to temporarily withdraw and transfer cases to another treatment centre, the agency said. According to its estimates, most cases were in the 15-49 age group. The outbreak is intensifying in Butembo and Katwa while new clusters have emerged in other health zones, WHO added.
The country’s north-eastern provinces, bordering Uganda, Rwanda and South Sudan, were affected. Thus chances of the disease spreading cannot be ignored. Besides mass displacement, what is further complicating the problem is continuous movement of refugees to neighbouring countries, including Uganda, Burundi and Tanzania.
DRC is facing simultaneous epidemics such as cholera, vaccine-derived poliomyelitis and malaria in a situation of long-term conflicts. Another challenge is that the outbreak has disproportionately affected women, who account for two-thirds of the cases, according to WHO.
The current outbreak is the tenth such since Ebola was identified in 1976. In the deadliest chain in 2014, more than 11,000 died in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.
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