3 Ebola deaths in re­mote Congo re­gion

New Straits Times - - World -

KINSHASA: An Ebola out­break in a re­mote re­gion in Demo­cratic Repub­lic of the Congo’s far north poses a lo­gis­ti­cal chal­lenge for doc­tors and aid work­ers al­though the sheer re­mote­ness could help limit its spread.

The lat­est out­break of the highly con­ta­gious dis­ease, the eighth to date in the sprawl­ing coun­try five times the size of France, has been re­ported in Bas-Uele prov­ince: an equa­to­rial for­est zone near the Cen­tral African Repub­lic.

Nine sus­pected in­fec­tions have been re­ported there, three of which have proved fa­tal.

The World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion (WHO) said the zone at Likati, 1,300km from here, was very dif­fi­cult to ac­cess but stressed it was cru­cial to pin­point who had had con­tact with those af­fected in or­der to nip the lat­est out­break in the bud.

This is the first Ebola out­break on the con­ti­nent since a cri­sis that be­gan at the end of 2013 in west Africa that killed 11,300 peo­ple.

Liberia was the last of those vast African states to be de­clared clear of the dis­ease in Jan­uary last year.

Regis Bil­laudel, the head of mis­sion of the med­i­cal non-gov­ern­men­tal or­gan­i­sa­tion Alima, said Kisan­gani, the main city in the north­east, was ac­ces­si­ble by air, and then one could travel by road to Buta, the cap­i­tal of BasUele. But cov­er­ing the 150km sep­a­rat­ing Buta and Likati was another mat­ter, com­bin­ing travel by boat along the Itim­biri river and then us­ing mo­tor­bikes to reach Likati.

“Four-wheel drives won’t go through,” the nar­row for­est roads, said Eu­gene Kabambi, the spokesman for the WHO’s Congo mis­sion.

“Tak­ing heavy equip­ment in all these zones is a real chal­lenge,” said Bil­laudel.

“There it’s a world of mo­tor­cy­cles, cy­cles and stretch­ers.”

An Alima team was on its way to Likata, he said, adding: “We are study­ing var­i­ous pos­si­bil­i­ties.”

The Bel­gian branch of the med­i­cal char­ity Doc­tors With­out Bor­ders said it was send­ing teams, equip­ment and medicines to the area with the help of the Con­golese govern­ment but con­ceded that “there are many lo­gis­ti­cal con­straints”.

The last in­stance of Ebola in Congo in 2014 — in a re­mote north­west­ern re­gion — was con­tained in less than three months and killed 49 peo­ple, ac­cord­ing to of­fi­cial fig­ures.

“There are many sim­i­lar­i­ties with the sit­u­a­tion in 2014,” said Kabambi, adding that the sparse pop­u­la­tion in the af­fected zone was an ad­van­tage.

The re­mote­ness helps con­tain the spread but is also a “chal­lenge for those fight­ing the dis­ease”, he said.

A new Ebola out­break has oc­curred in a land­locked north­east­ern re­gion of Congo, where the dis­ease has claimed three lives.

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