Ebola outbreak: Death toll tops 600 in conflict-hit Democratic Republic of Congo

Tuesday, March 19, 2019
By Paul Martin

MORE than 600 people have now died from an outbreak of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo, health officials said on Monday.

By ROMINA MCGUINNESS
Express.co.uk
Tue, Mar 19, 2019

The outbreak is believed to have killed 603 people, according to a bulletin posted by the Congolese Health Ministry. Health authorities in the African nation also revealed there have been nearly 1,000 cases of the deadly virus since the epidemic began last August. Ebola – which causes fever with severe vomiting and diarrhoea – can be transmitted through blood and other bodily fluids of people who have been infected. Around half of cases are fatal.

“Since the start of the epidemic, there have been 960 Ebola cases, including 895 confirmed and 65 probable. There have also been 603 deaths (538 confirmed and 65 probable), while 314 patients have made a full recovery,” the bulletin read.

The health ministry added that five deaths and nine new cases had been confirmed on Sunday, and that 172 “suspected” Ebola cases were currently being investigated.

A vaccination programme has so far inoculated “89,173 people” and “saved thousands of lives,” health officials stressed.

DR Congo is using German pharmaceutical company Merck’s experimental Ebola vaccine rVSV-ZEBOV to fight the virus.

The breakout is the second largest in history, after the 2014 West Africa Ebola epidemic that lasted for two years, infecting 28,000 and killing more than 11,300.

Ebola can be transmitted between humans through blood and other bodily fluids of people who have been infected, and by touching infected surfaces. It causes haemorrhagic fever with severe vomiting, diarrhoea and bleeding – more than half of cases are fatal.

But the outbreak is now concentrated in two areas and could be over by September, the head of the World Health Organisation (WHO) said last week, insisting that the country needs help tackling broader health issues.

“We have averted a much larger outbreak,” WHO chief Tedros Ghebreyesus Adhanom told a news conference, adding that the affected area was contained and shrinking. “Our target now is to finish it within the next six months.”

Mr Tedros said the WHO would not leave when the outbreak ended, and would instead help the government to build stronger health services.

He said: “I’d actually like to call upon the international community to link the outbreak control now with developing the health system.”

He urged international donors to help fund the $148million (£111million) plan to tackle Ebola in the next six months.

While a rapid international response has so far prevented the killer disease from spreading into neighbouring countries, community distrust and attacks by armed groups have hampered the response.

Armed rebels have attacked, kidnapped and killed health workers trying to combat the outbreak and equipment has been destroyed, making it difficult to help Ebola victims in areas marred by violence and poverty.

Last week, youths attacked an Ebola centre after medics attempted to collect samples from the body of a man suspected of having died of the virus.

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