Ebola spreading in DRC’s North Kivu
Around 255 fatalities so far in 10th and most serious outbreak since the virus was discovered in 1976
THE Ebola epidemic continues to spread through the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC’s) North Kivu province.
The newest areas to be affected include the city of Butembo and a number of isolated areas that are hard to reach.
So far, 440 people have been infected with the virus, 255 of whom have died.
Teams from international medical organisation Doctors Without Borders (MSF) continue to strengthen their efforts to help bring the epidemic under control.
This is DRC’s tenth and most serious epidemic of Ebola since the virus was discovered in 1976 near the Ebola River in what was then called Zaire.
Forty years later, despite a massive and co-ordinated mobilisation by the World Health Organisation (WHO), the Congolese Ministry of Health and organisations such as MSF, the deadly virus is still spreading.
The newest urban locations to be affected are the city of Butembo, as well as Kalenguta, 25km to its north, and Katwa, 30km to its east.
These places have all seen an increase in confirmed cases of Ebola as well as some resistance from the community.
For now, the number of cases in Butembo’s city centre is low, but cases are rising quickly in its eastern suburbs and outlying isolated districts.
“We are very concerned by the epidemiological situation in the Butembo area,” says John Johnson, MSF project co-ordinator in Butembo.
“We now know that this outbreak will last and that we must increase our efforts to get it under control.
“With the agreement of the authorities, we have made a strategic decision to roll out our activities close to the affected populations and to organise training of key people in the community so that we can reach patients and their relatives.”
MSF’s efforts to reach suspects in isolated areas have had initial success.
New cases are being reported from these areas and patients are being brought to Butembo, where MSF manages an Ebola treatment centre in collaboration with the Ministry of Health. The number of beds in the Butembo centre has recently been increased to 64.
Meanwhile, MSF has reinforced its activities to decontaminate health centres and vaccinate front line health workers to help contain the epidemic.
So far, 2 000 front line workers have received the Ebola vaccine.
In Mangina, where the epidemic started, no new cases have been reported for several weeks.
“We should be able to end our activities in the treatment centre shortly,” says Axelle Ronsse, the co-ordinator of MSF’s Ebola response. In Beni, the number of cases per week remains stable.
However, new cases are still being confirmed daily.
“To fight this, we have stepped up our medical and health operations by opening a 48-bed transit centre that remains busy,” said Ronsse.
“We also, for example, perform decontaminations in health centres where a confirmed patient has been. But our actions aren’t limited to reactive responses: we have increased our training of health professionals and raising awareness among communities of hygiene practices.
“Four months after the start of the epidemic, we remain mobilised and vigilant in the face of new developments.”
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HEALTH workers embrace while putting on their protective equipment before heading to work at an MSF-supported Ebola treatment centre. |