DRC Ebola total hits 699 amid more resistance, insecurity

Ebola village response efforts
Ebola village response efforts

Corporal Paul Shaw, MOD, DFID / Flickr cc

The number of confirmed cases in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) Ebola outbreak has jumped by 19 since Friday, most of them in Katwa, where responders face more community resistance.

Over the course of the outbreak, responders have been grappling with evolving challenges in different areas. In today's update, the health ministry described a security incident at a health checkpoint in Komanda that injured two workers.

Katwa resistance fuels case spike

Of the 19 new cases reported Jan 19 through today, 14 are in Katwa, 2 in Vuhovi, and 1 each in Beni, Mabalako, and Oicha. The new illnesses lift the outbreak total to 699, which includes 650 confirmed and 49 probable cases. As of today, authorities are still investigating 252 suspected cases.

In its Jan 19 update, the ministry said Katwa and Butembo are current hot spots, responsible for 65% of the new cases confirmed over the past 21 days. In Katwa, responders are encountering resistance from relatives of patients with confirmed infections. For example, reluctant contacts are refusing vaccination and follow-up, and the last 10 confirmed case-patients in Katwa are in the Muchanga health area and have family or neighborhood links.

In the former outbreak epicenter of Beni, cases have declined dramatically, but the newly reported case from the city involves a 19-day-old baby of a mother whose illness was reported on Jan 18.

Alongside the steady rise in new cases, the health ministry said 19 more people have died from Ebola, including 10 from Katwa, 5 from Butembo, 3 from Beni, and 1 from Mabalako. Of the 19 deaths, 8 occurred in the community, including 7 from Katwa and 1 from Mabalako.

The latest deaths push the outbreak's overall fatality count to 433.

Security incident in Komanda

In its update today, the health ministry reported a Jan 20 clash between a motorcyclist and health workers at a health checkpoint in Komanda health zone, one of the four affected areas of Ituri province .

The incident began when the motorcyclist refused to wash his hands and have his temperature taken, then tried to attack the health workers, prompting police officers to arrest him.

Then in protest, a group of bikers attacked the checkpoint, which also serves as the coordinating office for Komanda's Ebola response. The ministry said the police intervened quickly, limiting property damage to a few broken chairs and resulting in slight injury to two responders.

Earlier this month, violence in Komanda injured a member of the health ministry vaccination team.

Recent cases in 13 health zones

In its latest weekly update on emergencies and outbreaks, the World Health Organization (WHO) African regional office detailed the size and scope of the outbreak, noting that, of 18 affected health zones, 13 have reported at least one new confirmed case over the past 21 days.

Aside from the Katwa and Butembo hot spots, the WHO said Oicha is a third hot spot where resistance and insecurity pose significant challenges for outbreak responders.

The agency also noted that the newly affected health zone Kanya is located on the national road to Goma, the capital of North Kivu province. Also, it said the number of health workers sickened in the outbreak remained at 56 cases, 18 of them fatal.

See also:

Jan 19 DRC update

Jan 20 DRC update

Jan 21 DRC update

Jan 22 DRC update

Jan 20 WHO Africa regional office weekly report

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