The Ebola virus has now claimed 113 lives in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, as experts from seven East African countries completed meetings in Uganda focused on response to the outbreak.
“The discussions focused on the measures to be taken to prevent the spread of the current Ebola epidemic in the provinces of North Kivu and Ituri,” said Dr. Oly Ilunga, the Congolese health minister.
“Participating countries worked to develop an action plan to strengthen their cross-border surveillance, emergency preparedness and disease response mechanisms,” he added.
Burundi, South Sudan, Tanzania, Kenya and Rwanda also attended the meetings.
Congolese officials quelled last week’s rumor that the disease had spread into Uganda, but the World Health Organization and regional officials warn that the risk of Ebola crossing the border remains high.
Those concerns rose after two cases were reported in the village of Tchomia, near the Uganda border. Both of the cases were fatal and positively confirmed as Ebola infections.
Most of the fatalities have been in Mabalako, where 65 people have died. That’s remained steady in recent weeks, but fatalities rose to 34 in Beni and six in Butembo. About 2 million people live in Beni and its surroundings, which is the epicenter of this latest Ebola outbreak; Butembo has 1.4 million people.
WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus briefed the United Nations Security Council last week on the threat, which has been raised to “very high” risk. That’s because of the deteriorating security situation and community mistrust, particularly in Beni where 21 people died in a violent attack that disrupted Ebola operations at the end of September.
Apart from Mabalako, Beni and Butembo, the remaining cases are spread across eight other communities. More than 14,800 people have now been vaccinated, most of them in Mabalako and Beni.