Ebola virus. Image Credit: NIAID
One hundred cases of Ebola were registered in north-western Congo in less than three months, the World Health Organization (WHO) said Thursday when it warned the response to the epidemic was underfunded.
The outbreak was reported in Equateur province on June 1 as the country prepared to declare an end to a separate Ebola epidemic in the east that killed more than 2,000 people.
The most recent outbreak – the eleventh in Central Africa since Ebola was identified in 1976 – has since spread to 11 of the province's 17 health zones, and 43 people have died, according to the WHO.
The number of cases has doubled in the past five weeks.
"With 100 Ebola cases in less than 100 days, the outbreak is developing in a worrying manner in Equateur Province," said Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.
Affected communities are spread over 300 kilometers in remote and densely forested areas and pose logistical challenges, said Moeti.
"Without additional support, it will be more difficult for the local teams to stay one step ahead of the virus," said Moeti.
WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus expressed concern about delays between symptoms appearing and a warning for a suspected Ebola case, which he believed to be five days.
"This is worrying because the longer a patient is left without treatment, the lower their chances of survival and the longer the virus can invisibly spread through communities," he said at a press conference in Geneva.
"The situation was further complicated by a strike by health workers affecting activities like vaccinations and safe burials," he said.
In early August, Ebola health workers went on strike to ask for their salaries to be paid.
"The Democratic Republic of the Congo has the best trained Ebola workforce in the world. This situation needs to be resolved as soon as possible," he said.
"Ignore at our risk"
According to the WHO, the DRC's Ministry of Health has presented donors and partners with a plan that requires US $ 40 million to fight Ebola and has pledged US $ 4 million.
WHO said it had already raised a total of $ 2.3 million to fight the epidemic.
"COVID-19 is not the only emergency that needs robust support. As we know from our recent history, we ignore Ebola at our risk," warned Moeti.
On June 25, Congo DR officially declared the end of an Ebola epidemic that had broken out in the east nearly two years earlier and which Health Ministers described Eteni Longondo as "the longest, most complex and deadliest" in the country's history.
According to the WHO, the two epidemics do not have a common virus strain.
The virus is transmitted through contact with the blood, body fluids, secretions, or organs of an infected or recently deceased person.
The mortality rate is usually high, reaching as high as 90 percent in some outbreaks, according to the WHO.
In May 2018, another Ebola epidemic was contained in Equateur province in less than three months. 54 cases and 33 deaths were recorded.
DR Congo also faced a severe measles outbreak and recurrent outbreaks of cholera and malaria.
The country has recorded 9,802 cases of coronavirus and 248 deaths since the first cases were reported on March 10, according to the latest official figures.
The WHO warns of a new Ebola outbreak in the Congo and faces a funding gap
© 2020 AFP
Ebola cases rise to 100 in the latest outbreak in DR Congo (2020, August 21)
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