Published: Sat, December 01, 2018
Medicine | By Brett Sutton

Congo's Ebola outbreak now second largest in history

Congo's Ebola outbreak now second largest in history

The World Health Organization said the current Ebola virus outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo is the world's second-deadliest outbreak in history.

The World Health Organization reported late Thursday that it's found 426 cases - one more than a massive outbreak in Uganda almost two decades ago.

According to Congo's health ministry, there have been 198 confirmed deaths to the virus.

DRC officials say the Ebola outbreak is the worst in country's recorded history. Dozens of armed rebel groups are active, and their deadly attacks have forced responders to pause crucial Ebola containment work for days.

Many venture out on critical virus containment work only with the accompaniment of United Nations peacekeepers while gunfire echoes daily.

But it is still much smaller than the epidemic in West Africa between 2013 and 2016 which killed 11,310 people.

Salama of World Health Organization predicted that the outbreak in the northeastern part of the country will last at least another six months before it can be contained. More than 37 000 people have received Ebola vaccinations, and DRC has begun the first-ever trial to test the effectiveness and safety of four experimental Ebola drugs.

And yet the risk of Ebola spreading in so-called "red zones" - areas that are virtually inaccessible because of the threat of rebel groups - is a major concern in containing this outbreak.

It is not clear how many Centers for Disease Control and Prevention workers are now trying to tackle the outbreak from Congo's capital, Kinshasa, which is almost 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) away. Many new cases have been unrelated to known infections, alarming evidence that gaps in tracking remain.

"This tragic milestone clearly demonstrates the complexity and severity of the outbreak".

The alarmingly high number of infected newborns in this outbreak is another concern, and so far a mystery.

In October, WHO convened a meeting of worldwide organisations, United Nations partners, countries at risk of Ebola, drug manufacturers and others to agree on a framework to continue trials in the next Ebola outbreak, whenever and wherever it occurs.

"It is in United States national interests to control outbreaks before they escalate into a crisis", one group of global health experts said in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

It spreads through contact with bodily fluids and causes hemorrhagic fever with severe vomiting, diarrhoea and bleeding, and in many flare-ups, more than half of cases are fatal.

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