Congolese officials and the World Health Organization officials wear protective suits as they participate in a training against the Ebola virus near the town of Beni in North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of Congo, August 11, 2018. REUTERS/Samuel Mambo
Democratic Republic of Congo’s Ebola outbreak is expected to last several months and could spread at any time to Uganda or Rwanda, which are well prepared but have not approved the use of a vaccine, the World Health Organization said on Thursday (October 11).
But the most concerning area is the city of Beni in Congo’s North Kivu province, where dozens of people who may have been exposed to the deadly disease are hiding from health workers, emergency response chief Peter Salama told Reuters.
The outbreak has now caused 194 cases and 122 deaths, and two-thirds of cases in the past month have been in and around Beni, where the Ebola response was disrupted last month by a spate of attacks by armed groups and a period of official mourning.
The next few days will tell if the recent wave of infections in Beni is over, he said, depending on the security situation and the local community’s willingness to support the response.
Many of the new cases are already known to health workers as people who have had contact with recorded Ebola patients. On average, 80-90 percent of people with potential Ebola exposure is being monitored on a daily basis.
But a smaller number, around 40 or more, are “actively avoiding follow-up” and have not been found for days on end, increasing the risk of the disease spreading, Salama said. More than 90 percent of those people were in Beni, he added.
Some Ebola victims are suspicious of health workers, fearing that hospitalization is a death sentence – despite the obvious risks of missing out on treatment – while families believe that bodies may not be returned for traditional burials.
Local authorities in Beni have threatened people who harbor suspected patients with three-month jail sentences. — Reuters