In its weekly detailed analysis of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) Ebola outbreak, the World Health Organization (WHO) said another week of low case numbers is promising, but it worries that the remaining hot spots are in insecure areas that could seed new infections to other health zones where transmission has ended.
In other developments, the DRC confirmed 3 new cases today, putting the overall outbreak total at 3,227, according to the WHO's online Ebola dashboard.
The guarded optimism paired with worries about conditions in current hot spots comes just days before the fifth meeting of the WHO's Ebola emergency committee. On Oct 18 the group will meet to discuss the latest developments and whether the situation still warrants a public health emergency of international concern under the International Health Regulations.
High risk of resurgence
The WHO situation report yesterday said most of the newly confirmed cases over the past week have occurred in a concentrated area that has limited access and insecurity problems, which pose challenges for outbreak responders. It adds that the risk of resurgence is very high in those conditions, as is the risk of transmission from the hot spots to other areas.
Underscoring the concerns, the WHO said that, over the past week, several people who tested positive for Ebola sought care in health zones that no longer have Ebola transmission, such as Beni.
Another worry is the plummeting proportion of confirmed cases who were listed as contacts, which dropped from 57% to 13% over the past week, the lowest level since the middle of January, the WHO said. Over the past week, most cases had links to the Biakato Mines health area in Mandima—which is seeing a resurgence of cases—with the other illnesses linked to Mambasa health zone.
Insecure environments in both of the health zones can diminish response activities needed to disrupt transmission chains, such as contact tracing, safe and dignified burials, house decontamination, and vaccination, according to the WHO.
Steady trickle of new cases
Aside from the three new cases today, the WHO's online Ebola dashboard shows that health officials are still investigating 529 suspected Ebola cases.
Three more people died from their Ebola infections, lifting the fatality count to 2,153.
Meanwhile, the DRC's Ebola technical committee (CMRE) provided information on four cases reported yesterday. One was in Beni, and three were in Mandima. The group also said that, of three new deaths reported yesterday, none occurred in community settings, a factor known to raise the risk of transmission.
Oct 15 WHO Ebola situation report
Oct 15 CMRE report