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The Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is the worst to ever rock the country since the horror disease was discovered there in 1976. Health officials in the African nation say they have never seen such a fierce outbreak. Figures show the current one has infected at least 319 people and killed 201. No-one should be sleeping well tonight around the world.
‘No other epidemic in the world has been as complex as the one we are currently experiencing. This epidemic remains dangerous and unpredictable, and we must not let our guard down,‘ said Dr Oly Ilunga Kalenga, the DRC’s health minister.
Armed groups have attacked, kidnapped and killed medical staff trying to combat the outbreak, equipment has been destroyed, making it difficult to help victims.
The outbreak is happening in the Ituri and North Kivu provinces in the north east of the African nation, which borders Uganda and South Sudan.
Having started on August 1, it is the 10th outbreak since the disease, which causes extreme fever, bleeding and diarrhoea, was first discovered 42 years ago.
Deadly attacks and hundreds of dead
Since their arrival in the region, the response teams have faced threats, physical assaults, repeated destruction of their equipment, and kidnapping. Two of the Rapid Response Medical Unit even lost their lives in violent attacks that normally occur on average, three to four times a week.
In October, militants killed 11 civilians and a soldier in Beni, a city with a population of around 230,000 people where the outbreak is thought to have started.
Among the 198 people who have died in the outbreak, 163 of them were confirmed to have had Ebola, with 35 of them ‘probable’ cases. Around 100 people are thought to have survived the incurable virus.
The majority of the Ebola cases have been in the city of Beni – at least 120 confirmed cases have occurred there. And at least 30 of these – 27 of them fatal – have hit children under the age of 10, officials revealed last month, meaning children are dying at an unprecedented rate.
Despite facing resistance from people who don’t want health workers treating them, the government has managed to vaccinate more than 27,000 people. Those who are known to have come into contact with others who had the disease have been targeted by the vaccination programme.
The head of UN peacekeeping operations vowed this week to do more with DRC’s government to help improve security in the country’s east.
War and politics
Jessica Illunga, a spokesperson for the health ministry in DRC said in October: ‘There is an abnormally high number of children who have contracted and died of Ebola in Beni.’Normally, in every Ebola epidemic, children are not as affected.‘
Dr Peter Salama, emergency response chief at the World Health Organization (WHO), last month warned the current Ebola outbreak would only get worse. The combination of rebel violence and pre-election unrest is creating a ‘perfect storm’ for an even worse epidemic, he said. Armed opposition attacks in North Kivu province have risen in recent weeks.
Fears and misconceptions about the virus are also being exploited by politicians ahead of the DRC’s December election, which is causing the public to lose faith in health workers, according to Dr Salama.
Ebola, a haemorrhagic fever, killed at least 11,000 across the world after it decimated West Africa and spread rapidly over the space of two years. That pandemic was officially declared over back in January 2016, when Liberia was announced to be Ebola-free by the WHO.
Scientists believe Ebola is most often passed to humans by fruit bats, but antelope, porcupines, gorillas and chimpanzees could also be to blame. It can be transmitted between humans through blood, secretions and other bodily fluids of people – and surfaces – that have been infected.
The WHO warns that there is ‘no proven treatment’ for Ebola – but dozens of drugs and jabs are being tested in case of a similarly devastating outbreak. Hope exists though, after an experimental vaccine, called rVSV-ZEBOV, protected nearly 6,000 people.
Yes ebola and this unprecedented outbrack in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are just terrifying! I love the ’12 Monkeys’… What about you?