DRC’s Ebola outbreak reaches 1,000 cases
24 March 2019 – Goma, DR Congo. The deadly Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo, declared on 1 August 2018, has reached 1,000 cases. This is the second worst outbreak of Ebola in recorded history, after the 2014 outbreak in West Africa, which killed 11,000 people.
“Sadly, DR Congo’s Ebola outbreak, which started in Nord Kivu and has spread to Ituri Province, has marked 1,000 cases, making it the most disastrous Ebola outbreak in the country’s history,” says Thomas Simon, Country Director at Medair, an international NGO that has worked in DR Congo for 22 years. “If transmission of the disease does not end soon, it could spark the collapse of an already very fragile health system.”
Despite seven months of actively responding, and ongoing vaccination, the efforts of the Ministry of Health, NGOs, and health partners alike are being hampered by violence, mass displacement due to conflicts, community misinformation, and fear. "The virus, which is transmitted through bodily fluids once a person starts to have symptoms, is often mistaken for malaria or cholera because of similar symptoms, causing people not to worry until it is often too late,” says Thomas. "Also, many people believe that if they are taken to an Ebola Centre they will never come out. The fact is that the centres are the only available source of help and possible healing from the disease and the survival rate of people being admitted is higher than the West Africa Ebola outbreak. We have new medications, which can help to treat the disease, but the patients need to come in early and start the treatment,” he adds.
Everyone who comes into contact with a person infected with the virus must be monitored in case they develop symptoms; on average, this represents 100 people. By doing Ebola prevention work alongside community leaders and engagement teams, Medair is ensuring that a dialogue is established and that the messages regarding screening, vaccination, and proper handwashing are clear and culturally accepted.
Butembo and Katwa health zones, in Nord Kivu Province, are now the primary areas of concern. Medair is responding to the outbreak in multiple affected areas, including with a transit centre in Oicha, where humanitarian access remains a challenge. “Our teams are working tirelessly to help put an end to the spread of Ebola. Among our activities, we are equipping health facilities and communities with proper water and sanitation structures and training in hygiene practices, essential steps in making sure Ebola does not spread,” reports James Ray, Medair’s Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Advisor.
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