The latest outbreak of Ebola in eastern Congo has passed a grim milestone as more than 1,000 people have died from the disease since August. The country’s health minister, Oly Ilunga, said that four deaths in the city of Katwa and two in the city of Butembo helped push the death toll to over 1,000. The World Health Organization (WHO) says the outbreak remains contained to eastern Congo.
The outbreak in eastern Congo is already the second deadliest in history. The 2014-2016 outbreak in West Africa’s Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia that killed more than 11,000 people is considered the deadliest. In the latest outbreak, more than 109,000 people have received an experimental Ebola vaccine that is proving to be effective. The WHO also plans to introduce an unlicensed new Ebola vaccine made by Johnson & Johnson in the near future.
This is Congo’s 10th outbreak since 1976 and the first time an Ebola outbreak has occurred in the nation’s far northeast. The Ebola virus causes a type of hemorrhagic fever that is often fatal. The virus is spread through contact with the body fluids of infected people, including the dead.
Hostility toward health workers continues to hamper efforts to contain the outbreak. Treatment centers have come under repeated attack and the violence has prevented vaccination teams from getting to some areas. More than 120 rebel groups are currently fighting for control in the civil war-ravaged country.
International aid organizations have stopped their work in Butembo and Katwa due to the lack of security for their staff. According to the WHO, 119 attacks against those trying to contain the outbreak have been recorded since January. More than forty of the attacks have been directed at health facilities. Over 80 health workers have been wounded or killed.