Ebola hot spots shift as pattern of spread fluctuates

Wednesday, June 26, 2019
By Paul Martin

Stephanie Soucheray
Jun 25, 2019

In the past 10 days, officials have recorded nearly 100 new cases of Ebola in the ongoing outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), a sign of fluctuating transmission throughout North Kivu and Ituri provinces, the World Health Organization (WHO) said in an update.

Today, the DRC will likely confirm another 18 new cases, which will raise the outbreak total to 2,265. As of yesterday, there were 1,510 deaths, and 269 suspected cases are still being investigated.

Some spots heating up
“New [Ebola] cases continue to occur in North Kivu and Ituri provinces, with fluctuating transmission intensity,” the WHO’s African regional official said in a bulletin released yesterday. “While the disease trend has reduced in previous hotspots such as Butembo and Katwa, the reverse is happening in areas that previously had low transmission rates, such as Mabalako, Lubero and Mandima.”

In the update, the WHO said cases during the previous 3 weeks originated from Mabalako (36%; 88/245), Mandima (14%; 34), Beni (13%; 33), Katwa (7%; 18), Butembo (6%; 12) and Kalunguta (6%; 15).

The WHO said contact surveillance has strengthened in Butembo and Katwa, with contact tracking ongoing in 22 health zones. A case contact from Katwa who moved to Dubai is being monitored remotely, and continued collaboration between the DRC and neighboring countries has resulted in more than 68 million screenings at border crossings and points of entry to date.

In addition to surveillance, vaccination with Merck’s rVSV-ZEBOV continues throughout the outbreak region, with 141,754 people vaccinated as of yesterday. According to the DRC’s ministry of health, 39,207 of vaccine recipients are high-risk contacts, 72,031 are contacts of contacts, and 30,516 are first-line providers.

New attacks on health workers
A vaccination team and a psychosocial support team are the latest victims of violent attacks in Beni, DRC health officials said yesterday.

The attacks came after the death of a young man who died yesterday in an Ebola treatment center. The man also had a twin brother who is a confirmed case-patient being treated for Ebola.

“It should be noted that these two health areas have reported several cases of Ebola in recent weeks,” DRC ministry of health officials said. The attacks resulted in no deaths, but the assailants wounded two police officers and burned a car.

Today CARE, a humanitarian organization fighting global poverty, took note of the 1,500 fatalities benchmark by announcing a ramping up of their efforts in the region. The group will expand hand washing stations in schools and distribute hygiene and personal protection equipment, with an emphasis on girls and women, who are the most common household caretakers for patients, according to a CARE news release.

“We must absolutely ensure that local communities are front and center in the response and empowered with the right tools and information to combat the virus,” said Benoit Munsch, CARE’s country director in the DRC.

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