The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), in updates yesterday and today, reported five more confirmed Ebola cases, including two from the urban hub of Butembo, one of which involves a health worker from a clinic where the city's first case had been treated.
In a related development, the World Health Organization (WHO) said in an update yesterday that a lot of progress has been made in 6 weeks, and cases and deaths in the past week declined significantly. It added, however, that community resistance, weak infection prevention and control practices in health centers, and risk of virus spreading to insecure areas are still major threats.
Some areas have stabilized, but the WHO said Beni is the new hot spot, and response activities are scaling up to ease the impact of potential clusters in Butembo and in Masereka health zone, the latest new areas to report cases. "The coming few days will be critical in determining the trajectory of the outbreak," the agency said.
Latest cases makes 4 in Butembo
The newly reported cases include two from Mabalako, one from Beni, and two from Butembo, lifting the outbreak total to 137, including 106 confirmed and 31 probable cases. Fatal cases held steady at 92.
Butembo, North Kivu province's second-largest city and home to nearly 1 million people, now has four confirmed cases. Earlier cases include a patient who fled from the Beni outbreak hot spot and a man who fled from Ituri province and whose illness was diagnosed retroactively in Butembo based on a semen sample.
The newly reported illness in a healthcare worker means that 18 have now been sickened in the DRC's latest outbreak. Healthcare worker infections are a concern, not only because they are a key part of the frontline response, but also because their illnesses are known to amplify Ebola outbreaks.
The health ministry said officials are investigating 17 suspected cases and that the number of people immunized with VSV-EBOV, Merck's Ebola vaccine, is at 8,738, which includes 544 in Butembo and 220 in Masereka, a health zone not far from Butembo.
Butembo response scale-up
In its weekly update, the WHO said surveillance activities have been extended to Butembo and Masereka.
In Butembo, an operations hub has been opened as a base for outbreak response coordinators, and an emergency operations center is expected to begin operating within the coming days. Also, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and the health ministry are building a 10-bed Ebola treatment center in Butembo, which is expected to begin operating by the end of the week.
Regarding experimental treatments, 29 patients have received investigational drugs, including 14 who received mAb114, 9 who got the antiviral drug remdesivir, and 6 who received Zmapp. The WHO noted that so far 43 vaccination rings have been identified, plus 13 rings of healthcare and other frontline workers.
Sep 12 DRC update
Sep 13 DRC update
Sep 12 WHO situation report