EBOLA OUTBREAK: DR Congo CRISIS as death toll passes 400 – armed gangs roam border

Wednesday, January 16, 2019
By Paul Martin

THE death toll from an Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo has risen to more than 400, according to health ministry officials.

Wed, Jan 16, 2019

Armed groups roaming Congo’s conflict-hit eastern border with Uganda and Rwanda have hindered efforts to contain the Ebola outbreak, now the second biggest in history. The ministry said on Tuesday it had recorded 402 deaths from the highly contagious virus and that there had been 658 reported cases since the epidemic began last August. Some 609 Ebola cases have been confirmed and another 49 are currently under investigation, a bulletin posted by the ministry said.

More than 60,000 people have been inoculated since a vaccination programme was launched on August 8.

The epidemic in one of the most volatile parts of DR Congo is now only surpassed by the 2014-2016 outbreak in West Africa, where nearly 28,000 cases were confirmed and more than 11,000 people were killed.

It is also bigger than an outbreak in Uganda in 2000 where 425 Ebola cases were confirmed.

Officials, however, said that the number of cases of the killer disease in Beni, a city home to around 230,000 people and an Ebola hotspot, was dropping.

The ministry stressed it had not reported any new cases this week in the city, situated in a region embroiled in violence widely blamed on Islamist militants.

The armed groups roaming DR Congo’s eastern border with Uganda and Rwanda are hobbling relief efforts to contain the outbreak.

The rebels have attacked, kidnapped and killed medical staff trying to stem the epidemic and destroyed their equipment, making it difficult to help victims.

Tracking suspected contacts of Ebola patients is also difficult in areas held by rebels, according to health officials, who have repeatedly stressed the outbreak could spiral out of control and spread further.

Aid workers have also warned that the outbreak of the virus is likely to rage on until the middle of the year at least. Workers across the region have been given vaccines against the virus in an attempt to stop it from spreading via people travelling across porous borders.

Neighbouring Uganda, Rwanda and South Sudan are on high alert.

Ebola spreads through bodily fluids and causes haemorrhagic fever with severe bouts of vomiting, diarrhoea and bleeding. It can also be transmitted by touching infected surfaces. In many flare-ups, more than half of cases are fatal.

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