Congo

Ebola virus invades Congo, 81 dead

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Thousands of people have fled a town in the Republic of Congo from fear of contracting the Ebola virus, which has killed more than 80 people in the last two months.
More than 2,000 residents left Kelle and other communities in the Congo-Brazzaville region. Most have gone into hiding to avoid contracting the deadly disease that begins with high fever, followed by diarrhea, bleeding from the nose and gums and eventually massive internal hemorrhaging.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is holding meetings with local leaders in an attempt to raise awareness about what causes Ebola. Eating wild animals and touching the bodies of those who have died of the disease are the primary causes of infection.

Tragically, a great level of misunderstanding exists among Congo residents about the disease. Four teachers have reportedly been killed by a mob after being accused of causing the outbreak.

Infected people have also been unwilling to seek medical help, as only 17 people have sought treatment in local hospitals throughout the recent epidemic. One is showing signs of pulling through.

The WHO has asked for international aid to cover the costly isolation techniques used in containing the Ebola virus as well as securing food for the population. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies also issued an appeal for $130,000 to help combat the Congo outbreak.

The Federation's senior epidemiologist, Bernard Moriniere, described the disease as "devastating and terrifying."

[Ebola] can kill those who care for the sick, and those who perform funeral rites," he said.

"Community-based Red Cross volunteers can play a crucial role as a trusted bridge that is often lacking in such situations."

The United States has also sent an epidemiologist from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta to join Congolese, IFRC and UN World Health Organization (WHO) experts on the ground.

The latest outbreak, initially detected on January 4, is believed to have begun when the tribal people of the region ate infected gorilla meat. Authorities were alerted in December, though, when gorillas and chimpanzees began dying in the remote forest districts of Etoumbi, Mbomo and Kellé

There is no known medical cure for Ebola, which can kill up to 90 percent of its victims in particularly virulent strains, such as the current one. Prompt detection and isolation of cases can assist in halting the spread of the disease, and early treatment of associated symptoms can save some lives.

Not only humans are at risk, though. More than 200 of the 800 gorillas at the Lossi wildlife sanctuary near Kelle have died, and the disease is spreading to others in the Odzala National Park, a key environmental haven, according to local wildlife officials.

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