Congo min­istry says Ebola out­break worst in na­tion’s his­tory

Miami Herald (Sunday) - - World | Deaths - BY SALEH MWANAMILONGO As­so­ci­ated Press

KIN­SHASA, CONGO

Congo’s lat­est Ebola out­break is the worst in the coun­try’s recorded his­tory with 319 con­firmed and prob­a­ble cases, the health min­istry said.

The deadly virus has killed about 198 peo­ple since the out­break was de­clared Aug. 1 in the volatile east, the min­istry said. Those dead in­clude 163 con­firmed Ebola cases, with 35 prob­a­ble deaths. Nearly 100 peo­ple have sur­vived Ebola. This is Congo’s 10th out­break since 1976, when the hem­or­rhagic fever was first iden­ti­fied in Yam­buku, in the Equa­teur prov­ince, the min­istry said.

Health Min­is­ter Dr. Oly Ilunga Kalenga said late Fri­day that the fig­ures now ex­ceed that out­break.

“No other epi­demic in the world has been as com­plex as the one we are cur­rently ex­pe­ri­enc­ing,” Kalenga said. “Since their ar­rival in the re­gion, the re­sponse teams have faced threats, phys­i­cal as­saults, re­peated de­struc­tion of their equip­ment, and kid­nap­ping. Two of our col­leagues in the Rapid Re­sponse Med­i­cal Unit even lost their lives in an at­tack.”

Armed groups vy­ing for con­trol of Congo’s min­er­al­rich east have staged reg­u­lar at­tacks in Congo’s Ituri and North Kivu prov­inces, com­pli­cat­ing the re­sponse by health of­fi­cials who are also meet­ing com­mu­nity re­sis­tance. Health of­fi­cials, how­ever, have man­aged to vac­ci­nate more than 27,000 high-risk con­tacts, of which at least half could have de­vel­oped Ebola, the health min­is­ter said.

“This epi­demic re­mains dan­ger­ous and un­pre­dictable, and we must not let our guard down. We must con­tinue to pur­sue a very dy­namic re­sponse that re­quires per­ma­nent read­just­ments and real own­er­ship at the com­mu­nity level,” he said.

The head of U.N. peace­keep­ing op­er­a­tions vowed this week to do more with Congo’s gov­ern­ment to help im­prove se­cu­rity in the coun­try’s east.

This is the first time an Ebola out­break has oc­curred in Congo’s far north­east. The health min­istry has said teams re­spond­ing to the Ebola out­break are at­tacked three or four times a week, a level of vi­o­lence un­seen in the coun­try’s nine pre­vi­ous out­breaks of the virus.

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