At least 1,500 people may have been exposed to deadly Ebola virus in the Congo, says WHO, as it warns situation could deteriorate as aid workers are unable to reach ‘no-go’ areas

Friday, August 17, 2018
By Paul Martin

Ebola has hit Congo, in central Africa, hard in recent weeks, particularly in the eastern region of Beni
The World Health Organization said at least 1,500 people had potentially been exposed to the virus
So far, 44 people have died after falling ill and 78 people have been confirmed as infected
Doctors are isolating victims in secure units made by the Alliance for International Medical Action
They are being used for the first time in an effort to stem the outbreak in an area also ravaged by war

17 August 2018

The World Health Organization said on Friday that at least 1,500 people had potentially been exposed to the deadly Ebola virus in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s North Kivu region, where fear of local militia is preventing aid workers from reaching some areas.

But it expected more people to become infected and could not be sure that it had identified all chains by which the virus is spreading in the eastern part of the country beset by militia violence.

The region is haunted in particular by the Allied Defence Forces, a Ugandan Islamist rebel group blamed for hundreds of civilian deaths over the past four years.

More than 500 people including health workers have been vaccinated against the disease in Congo’s latest outbreak, marked by a total of 78 confirmed and probable cases, including 44 deaths, the WHO said.

Some 1,500 people have been identified as contacts of people infected with the disease that causes fever, vomiting and diarrhoea.

‘We don’t know if we are having all transmission chains identified. We expect to see more cases as a result of earlier infections and these infections developing into illness,’ WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic told a Geneva news briefing.

‘We still don’t have a full epidemiological picture… The worst case scenario is that we have these security blindspots where the epidemic could take hold that we don’t know about,’ he said.

On August 1, Beni declared an outbreak of Ebola epicentered in Mangina – a small town that had been a relative haven from the fighting – where six members of the same family died of the disease.

‘I fled here from Kokola, where the ADF were committing atrocities,’ said Pascaline Fitina, a 36-year-old woman, sitting alone, her head in her hands.

‘I went to my elder sister, but she has died of Ebola and her husband is being quarantined at the treatment centre. I don’t what to do.’

Pascal Lukula, a 38-year-old farmer with five children, said he was stuck in Mangina, unable to get to other members of his family, because of the encroaching militia.

‘We are caught between the hammer and the anvil,’ he sighed. ‘The ADF’s on one side, and Ebola on the other.’

The outbreak – the country’s 10th since the disease was discovered in then-Zaire in 1976 – was announced just a week after the end of an Ebola flareup in northwestern Equateur province that claimed 33 lives.

The infected will be treated in 10 Biosecure Emergency care Units (CUBEs), which will be used for the first time to treat Ebola patients and are currently being constructed by The Alliance for International Medical Action in response to the outbreak.

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