Ebola reaches ma­jor city in Congo

At­tacks, mis­in­for­ma­tion hurt bid to halt out­break

Las Vegas Review-Journal - - WORLD - By Car­ley Petesch and Cara Anna The As­so­ci­ated Press

DAKAR, Sene­gal — The sec­ond-largest Ebola out­break in his­tory has spread to a ma­jor city in eastern Congo, as health ex­perts worry whether the stock of an ex­per­i­men­tal vac­cine will stand up to the de­mands of an epi­demic with no end in sight.

Butembo, with more than 1 mil­lion res­i­dents, is now re­port­ing cases of the deadly hem­or­rhagic fever. That com­pli­cates Ebola con­tain­ment work al­ready chal­lenged by rebel at­tacks else­where that have made track­ing the virus al­most im­pos­si­ble in some iso­lated vil­lages.

“We are very con­cerned by the epi­demi­o­log­i­cal sit­u­a­tion in the Butembo area,” said John John­son, project co­or­di­na­tor with Doc­tors With­out Bor­ders in the city.

The out­break de­clared on Aug. 1 is now sec­ond only to the dev­as­tat­ing West Africa out­break that killed more than 11,300 peo­ple a few years ago.

There are cur­rently 471 Ebola cases, of which 423 are con­firmed, in­clud­ing 225 con­firmed deaths, Congo’s health min­istry said late Thurs­day.

With­out the teams that have vac­ci­nated more than 41,000 peo­ple so far, this out­break could have al­ready seen more than 10,000 Ebola cases, the min­istry said.

This is by far the largest de­ploy­ment of the promis­ing but still ex­per­i­men­tal Ebola vac­cine, which is owned by Merck. The com­pany keeps a stock­pile of 300,000 doses, and pre­par­ing them takes months.

“We are ex­tremely con­cerned about the size of the vac­cine stock­pile,” Dr. Peter Salama, emer­gen­cies di­rec­tor of the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion, told the STAT me­dia out­let in an in­ter­view this week.

This Ebola out­break is like no other, with deadly at­tacks by rebel groups forc­ing con­tain­ment work to pause for days at a time. Some wary lo­cals have re­sisted vac­ci­na­tions or safe buri­als of Ebola vic­tims as health work­ers bat­tle mis­in­for­ma­tion in a re­gion that has never en­coun­tered the virus be­fore.

A “fringe pop­u­la­tion” has reg­u­larly de­stroyed med­i­cal equip­ment and at­tacked work­ers, Health Min­is­ter Dr. Oly Ilunga Kalenga told re­porters Wed­nes­day.

Thou­sands of peo­ple have been or­ga­nized by Red Cross so­ci­eties and oth­ers to go house-to-house dis­pelling ru­mors and check­ing on pos­si­ble con­tacts of vic­tims.

The As­so­ci­ated Press

In this photo taken Nov. 4 and made avail­able Tues­day, a care­taker al­ready cured of Ebola car­ries a 4-day-old baby sus­pected of hav­ing the dis­ease into a treat­ment cen­ter in Butembo, Congo.

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