Published: Sat, December 01, 2018
Medicine | By Tracy Klein

World Health Organization sounds alarm after Ebola resurfaces in DRC

World Health Organization sounds alarm after Ebola resurfaces in DRC

The World Health Organization said the current Ebola virus outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo is the world's second-deadliest outbreak in history.

The announcement came after a devastating week, when 13 cases were confirmed on Wednesday - a one-day record - and officials confirmed even newborn babies are catching the virus.

Health workers had to be evacuated from their hotel after it was hit by a shell in a nearby armed rebel attack earlier this month.

The town of Beni in North Kivu province, now battling the worst Ebola outbreak in Congo's history, has also seen an eight-fold increase in malaria cases since a year ago.

It is not clear how many Centres for Disease Control and Prevention workers are now forced to tackle the outbreak from DRC's capital, Kinshasa, almost 1 600km away.

This put the total cases over the 2000 Uganda outbreak (425) to become the second largest Ebola outbreak since it was "discovered" in 1976, only behind the 2014-2016 West Africa outbreak where 28,000 people were infected and some 11,000 died.

Until now, over 160 patients have been treated with investigational therapeutics under an ethical framework developed by the World Health Organization, in consultation with experts in the field and the DRC, called the Monitored Emergency Use of Unregistered and Investigational Interventions (MEURI), the release said.

Last month, the WHO heeded the recommendation of an expert advisory committee to not declare the Democratic Republic of the Congo's latest Ebola epidemic a public health emergency of worldwide concern - a proclamation that would have mobilized more resources and garnered global attention.

The deadly virus, Ebola was initially identified in 1979. There is also a reluctance among some residents to seek care or allow health workers to vaccinate, conduct contact tracing and perform safe burials, according to health officials.

He added: 'Since their arrival in the region, the response teams have faced threats, physical assaults, repeated destruction of their equipment, and kidnapping.

'No other epidemic in the world has been as complex as the one we are now experiencing, ' said Dr Oly Ilunga Kalenga, the DRC's health minister.

The outbreak has been heavily concentrated in the northeastern province of North Kivu, where a majority of all cases have been recorded in the conflict-torn city of Beni, which is home to 800,000 people. "If want to see the end of this, we do need all critical actors on the ground".

'We must continue to pursue a very dynamic response that requires permanent readjustments and real ownership at the community level'.

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