More than a thousand people have been infected with the deadly Ebola virus in two eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, an outbreak that claimed hundreds of lives and upset public health authorities.
The Congolese Ministry of Health said on Sunday, the virus killed at least 629 people and infected 1,009 people. This makes it by far the worst Ebola outbreak in modern Congo history and the second worst outbreak in the world, behind an epidemic that hit four West African countries in 2014.
Worryingly, the number of cases has soared in recent weeks, spreading faster than in December and January.
Health officials say that the increasing number of cases comes when they have difficulty getting in touch with communities that are not used to dealing with Ebola or even with helpers hoping to help. These officials were frustrated in recent weeks when the epicenter of the eruption was moved from the city of Beni south to the cities of Butembo and Katwa.
More than half of the cases that occurred in the last three weeks came in these two cities. Two other smaller cities, Masereke and Mandima, were responsible for most of the new cases in the last 21
"The epidemic's current epicenter is still very much open in the twin cities of Butembo and Katwa," said Michael Ryan, the World Health Organization Deputy Director-General in charge of monitoring the global outbreak response, said in an interview on Saturday The Hill. "We had real challenges in Butembo and Katwa and the surrounding areas."
The province of North Kivu has been plagued by decades of ethnic conflict, and at least one million of its eight million inhabitants are internally displaced. There are about two dozen armed rebel groups in the region, some of whom have attacked health professionals. The situation is so dangerous that the US Department of State has not allowed relief organizations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the US Agency for International Development to operate in the region.
Health officials face strong suspicion and resistance in communities, rarely interacting with international aid workers or even with their own federal government in faraway Kinshasa.
In the last month, angry mobs in both cities have attacked health facilities dealing with Ebola victims. Medecins Sans Frontieres, known in the United States as Doctors Without Borders, drew its workers after the attacks from the region. WHO has reopened the Butembo center and the center in Katwa is being rebuilt.
The distrust is so great that families and people infected with the virus – the ones who are most likely to contract Ebola themselves – sometimes hesitate to get a vaccine that is used in the area.
The vaccine was given to more than 90,000 people in North Kivu and Ituri, and to thousands of other health professionals in Uganda, Rwanda and South Sudan. The virus spreads across international borders. Health workers use a strategy called ring vaccination and give the dose to those who have come in contact with an Ebola victim and those who have come in contact with the contacts to stop the virus.
The Ebola virus has killed about 62 percent of those who become infected. However, the outcomes are very different for those seeking and receiving immediate treatment that survives much more frequently, and those who wait days to seek treatment who die at a higher rate.
Their families are at risk of catching the virus when they look after relatives. Ryan said global health officials are working to build trust to ensure that the infected are treated promptly.
"The median time for discovery and transportation to a [Ebola treatment unit] came in places like Mangina, places like Beni and Tchomia and Komanda." He said, with respect to cities that control Ebola outbreaks locally
"Many patients are quite ill. Five, six, ten days after the infection. It's also bad for their families, it's also bad for their communities because they transmit the disease before they get isolated. "
In Butembo and Katwa, there are 17 transmission chains – separate groups of infected patients who spread the virus independently – Active, Ryan said, saying that health officials are working to build trust in both cities through religious leaders and local councils led by residents themselves rather than by foreigners.
"They are very independent, they are very business oriented. They move and they act, and they have a deep mistrust of outsiders, "Ryan said." They are suspicious. They see lots of resources for Ebola, and they have other health problems that have not been addressed for years. "
" At the end of the day, all this reaction is based on early detection of cases, exhaustive identification of contacts, contacts, "said Ryan: "We have the operational capacity to deliver on all of this, but none of this is possible if the community does not accept the intervention."
However, the international community has spent more than $ 90 million on the latest phase of the Reaction promised A large part of the promised money has yet to arrive.
"It is by no means fully funded. We still have $ 50 million too little, "Ryan said." It's one thing to have $ 90 million commitments. It's another thing to have the money in the bank. "
WHO has more than 700 local health workers in the provinces of North Kivu and Ituri, with other aid groups still working in the region helped by health workers in safer areas across borders, and they filled positions at WHO headquarters in Geneva when they were stationed in the Congo.
CDC director Robert Redfield visited the region earlier this month Visit Ebola treatment center in Butembo even though he was attacked hours before his arrival