Ebola outbreak in the DRC hits record number of cases in a single day

https://www.newscientist.com/article/2201608-ebola-outbreak-in-the-drc-hits-record-number-of-cases-in-a-single-day/

Health workers dressed in Ebola protective suits carry a coffin

Ebola is spreading in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Baz Ratner/Reuters

The number of Ebola cases in the Democratic Republic of Congo is rising faster, reaching a high of 27 confirmed cases in one day, according to the country’s health ministry. That surpasses the last record, set a few weeks ago, of 20 cases in one day.

The latest figures from the World Health Organisation (WHO) bring the total confirmed cases to 1400, including 891 deaths, most of which are among women and children. The uptick in cases may not be caused by the disease spreading more quickly, but could be a sign of doctors in the region being able to more accurately count cases in towns that were previously off-limits due to sectarian violence.

“The increase in the number of new cases in the Democratic Republic of Congo remains deeply concerning,” WHO said in the report. “With often difficult to access settings, disruptions by incidents of sporadic violence by armed militias, and limited healthcare resources, this outbreak is taking place in one of the most challenging circumstances ever confronted by WHO.”

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The outbreak began in August 2018 and healthcare workers have faced difficulty containing it due to lack of health infrastructure, mistrust in health workers among affected communities, and violent attacks in the region.

A total of 33 healthcare workers have also died, including WHO epidemiologist Richard Mouzoko, who was killed when armed militia members attacked a clinic in Butembo on 19 April. Conflict has been constant in the region for decades, with some 70 militia groups vying for control over mining in the area.

As the outbreak has continued, health workers and clinics have been specifically targeted with violence. Two clinics were firebombed in late February, and Doctors Without Borders temporarily pulled their workers out of the area to keep them safe.

After Mouzoko’s death, some of WHO’s Ebola response activities were shut down, but vaccination and case investigations have started again, according to WHO’s Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

 

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