Ebola Outbreak In Congo Now Worst In Country’s History

Officials in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are calling this latest Ebola outbreak the worst in the country’s recorded history. There are now 319 confirmed and probable cases, the health ministry said. The deadly virus has killed about 198 people this time around, with 163 confirmed Ebola cases and 35 probable deaths. Nearly 100 people have survived being infected.

The Ebola virus causes an often-fatal type of hemorrhagic fever. Ebola is spread when an uninfected person comes into contact with the body fluids of infected people, including the dead. This current outbreak in Congo was declared Aug. 1. Since Aug. 8, more than 27,000 high-risk contacts in the outbreak zone have been vaccinated against the disease.

The outbreak has been most virulent in the northeastern province of North Kivu. About half of the cases have been recorded in the city of Beni, which has a population of about 800,000 people. Cases have also been reported in the neighboring Ituri province. North Kivu and Ituri share borders with Uganda and Rwanda and are some of the most populous provinces in the country.

The response by health officials has been complicated by community resistance and the activities of armed groups. The health ministry said teams responding to the Ebola outbreak are attacked three or four times a week on average. Health Minister Dr. Oly Ilunga Kalenga said, “Since their arrival in the region, the response teams have faced threats, physical assaults, repeated destruction of their equipment, and kidnapping. Two of our colleagues in the Rapid Response Medical Unit even lost their lives in an attack.”

This is Congo’s 10th outbreak since 1976. That year, scientists first identified the deadly virus near the Ebola River in Yambuku, in the Equateur province. The outbreak is also the third most severe in the recorded history of the African continent This is the first time an Ebola outbreak has occurred in Congo’s far northeast.

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