Ebola in DRC rises as militants attack response centres
The World Health Organisation says the attacks are preventing the spread of the disease beyond the country’s borders
Geneva — Cases of the deadly Ebola virus have risen in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) where healthcare workers remain largely cut off from the disease’s hot-spots since militants attacked their camp, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Friday.
Twenty-seven Ebola cases were confirmed in North Kivu and Ituri provinces in the week ending December 10, against an average of seven in the past three weeks, the WHO said.
Ebola is highly contagious and spreads through bodily fluids.
Militia fighters in eastern DRC killed four people and wounded several in attacks on two Ebola response centres two weeks ago, in what responders described as a serious setback to efforts to contain the epidemic.
“Insecurity is one of the main challenges we face because it prevents us [from reaching] the communities to protect them against Ebola,” Dr Michel Yao, WHO incident manager, told a Geneva briefing.
A helicopter is to be used as an air bridge to ferry epidemiologists and vaccinators to non-secure areas and bring them back the same day, he said, adding that more than 20 people from the stricken Biakato mine area were vaccinated on Thursday.
“When we cannot access the community, we cannot perform surveillance activities [or] vaccination that has been one of the key innovations that really help us stop the spread out of this country to others,” Yao said.
There have been 3,340 Ebola cases including 2,210 deaths in the world’s second largest epidemic that was declared in August 2018, WHO figures show.
An Ebola survivor fell ill with the disease for a second time in eastern DRC, local health authorities said on Sunday, saying it was not yet clear if it was a case of relapse or re-infection. The man died in a village near Beni, Yao said.
The WHO said that the majority of the 27 new cases were linked to a single chain of transmission, in which that man was a potential source of infection for 17 people. It was the second time that Ebola had been documented in the man within six months, it said.