Death Toll Soars In Congo’s Ebola Outbreak

An outbreak of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo is spreading, with nearly three dozen additional cases reported in the past weeks. In the past week, 33 people were confirmed with Ebola virus and 24 of them died. There now may be a risk of the virus spreading from northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo into Uganda and Rwanda.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is now deciding whether to declare Congo’s Ebola outbreak a public health emergency of international concern. Two weeks ago, WHO raised its risk assessment of regional spread from “high” to “very high”. An emergency committee of experts may soon make recommendations to manage the outbreak.

North Kivu province is the epicenter of the current outbreak. Additional cases have been reported in neighboring Ituri province. The two provinces are among the most populated in the nation. WHO has estimated that more than one million refugees and internally displaced people are in North Kivu and Ituri.

The current outbreak was officially declared on Aug. 1. This is the second outbreak in Congo this year, according to WHO. A previous outbreak in a western region of the country began in May and ended in July.

Ebola spreads through contact with the bodily fluids of its victims, causing fever, severe headache and in some cases hemorrhaging. On average, Ebola kills about half of those infected.
In total, 211 suspected cases have been reported in the current outbreak. Congo’s health ministry said 130 people have died since July.

Experimental treatments for the illness have been deployed to help those affected. The health ministry said 73 patients had received new experimental treatments, with over half recovered. Twenty of those patients were still in hospital and the rest died. Over all, fifty-five patients have recovered from the illness.

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