The Ebola outbreak in the northwest of the Democratic Republic of the Congo is growing. It has now surpassed the previous outbreak in the region that was closed off at 54 cases. 33 people lost their lives in the last outbreak. Till date, the health authorities have found 56 cases in the region and 22 people have already lost their lives. On 16th July World Health Organization (WHO) issued a statement in which they said that the new outbreak is of great concern as the world is already struggling to control the coronavirus pandemic.
Concerns raised as the #Ebola outbreak in Equateur Province #DRC continues to grow & resources diminish. There are now 56 cases, surpassing the 2018 outbreak in this area of 54 cases in total.— WHO African Region (@WHOAFRO) July 16, 2020
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Funding issues may cause problem in controlling the epidemic
Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, said, “The current Ebola outbreak is running into headwinds because cases are scattered across remote areas in dense rain forests. This makes for a costly response as ensuring that responders and supplies reach affected populations is extremely challenging.” WHO noted in the statement that the organization is facing funds shortfall and have been able to mobilize on $1.75 million, which will last for only a few more weeks.
The current outbreak in DR Congo is the 11th outbreak since Ebola was first identified in 1976. DR Congo officially declared an end to a separate Ebola epidemic on 25th June that had claimed over 2,000 lives. It took health authorities two years to control the epidemic. Health Minister Eteni Longondo said was “the longest, most complex and deadliest” in the country’s history.
Vaccination drive launched
Health authorities have launched a vaccination campaign in the country to combat Ebola. All the affected health zones have been covered by the vaccination. More than 12,000 people have been vaccinated in the six weeks since the outbreak began.
WHO was able to act quickly after learning about the new outbreak. During the previous outbreak in Equateur, it took two weeks for the health officials to start vaccinations that were reduced to four days this time. WHO has roped in locals for the vaccination drive to build trust among the communities. 26 laboratory technicians trained during 2018 outbreak are currently supporting diagnostics.
Different virus strain is a matter of concern
WHO said that the two epidemics do not have a common viral strain that has further made the situation complex. AFP quoted a local official, Moraliste Nembetwa who noted that the infection has spread over several villages. The virus can pass on by contact with the blood, body fluids, or secretions and organs of an infected or recently deceased person. The death rate can range up to 90 percent making it one of the deadliest infections.
Serge Ngalebato, a doctor at the Bikoro hospital, said the country is facing multiple health problems including Ebola epidemic, measles epidemic, new cases of polio and recurring flare-ups of malaria and cholera. DR Congo has reported 8.249 cases of Covid-19 so far, and 193 people have lost their lives to the pandemic.