With the Ebola virus death toll now at 130 in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, the country’s health minister announced Saturday a new approach in seeking to contain the outbreak in the face of security challenges.
Dr. Oly Ilunga said health workers are turning to community-based teams to help bridge the fear and mistrust of Ebola efforts. They’re pushing back against the rumors about Ebola and the caregivers, amid the conflict in Beni and the surrounding North Kivu and Ituri provinces that’s limiting access to patients and their contacts.
Those challenges have contributed to a second wave of cases in Beni, which is now the main focus, the Ministry of Health said. Mabalako accounts for 50 percent of the Ebola fatalities with 65 victims, but that’s held steady this month. Beni has now seen 49 people die – up from 29 just 10 days ago – and it’s there that methods to identify contacts and assess the Ebola spread are the most compromised.
“Beni is the epicenter of the Ebola outbreak now due to a toxic mix of factors driving the increasing force of infection,” said Dr. Peter Salama, an Australian epidemiologist serving as WHO Deputy Director-General for Emergency Preparedness and Response.
The remaining cases, now numbering 207, are spread across nine other communities. More than half of the victims are women, and two-thirds of them are between 15 and 44 years of age. The cases also now include a United Nations employee. There also are 20 cases among health workers, accounting for three of the fatalities.
More than 16,500 people have been vaccinated, including 6,453 in Beni.
Image: WHO Africa