In a short span of five months, the Ebola outbreak has grasped more than 600 victims in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Beginning on August 1, 2018, the Ebola outbreak is estimated to have about 608 patients with a death toll of 368 based on a statement made by the Ministry Of Health. With a mortality rate surpassing 60%, this deadly disease has taken the lives of hundreds since its outbreak was first reported. Only 207 people have as of yet been reported to recover from this deadly disease. Furthermore, doctors in Congo are currently evaluating 29 more patients suspected of being infected by Ebola.
The deadliest Ebola epidemic
Ebola wreaked havoc during its deadliest epidemic in West Africa from 2013-2016 during which the death count was more than 11,000. At the rate of progression seen now in Congo, the current epidemic is threatening to be equally devastating as the previous one.
American health worker exposed to Ebola
In the 2014 outbreak, almost 10 percent of the fatalities were health care workers infected after being exposed to the virus while treating the patients.
A similar case has arisen now with reports of an American health worker in Congo being exposed to the virus. Reports further state that the health worker is currently under observation for symptoms of Ebola in the United States, according to the Nebraska Medical Center. The person’s identity was not revealed due to concerns of privacy.
As of now, Ebola is mainly limited to North Kivu province, which includes the cities of Beni, Kalunguta, and Mabalako. However, some cases have also been reported in the neighboring Ituri province.
Violence brews beside the epidemic
According to WHO, these two provinces are also centers of violence with more than 50 armed groups. Along with Ebola, long-term violence from conflicts is another contributing factor to the rising mortality rate in these two provinces. With millions of refugees migrating through and out of these two provinces, the risk of a widespread epidemic is exponentially increased.
The increasing number of malaria cases has further added turmoil to the already devastated province.
Political instability with a long-awaited presidential election, which was initially scheduled for 2016, added more hurdles to health care workers. Following the vote, more conflicts arose between militant groups and government forces.
The minister of health stated in his recent visit to the province “The activities of the response to Beni and Butembo have been severely disrupted following the demonstrations of the population,” he further added, “The majority of the teams were unable to deploy in both cities but were able to work remotely with local health workers who maintained minimal field activity.”
Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO’s director-general, made a statement regarding the outbreak “We have reached a critical point in the Ebola response. After the intensification of field activities, we were seeing hopeful signs in many areas, including a recent decrease in cases in Beni,” Tedros states “These gains could be lost if we suffer a period of prolonged insecurity, resulting in increased transmission. That would be a tragedy for the local population, who have already suffered too much.”
A potential cure?
Since its outbreak in August, the ministry has launched a vaccination program, which has vaccinated 54,153 people as of yet. Additionally, three new Ebola drugs are under clinical trials since late November.