Ebola cases climb to 1,168 as more health workers infected

Nurse caring for Ebola patient
Nurse caring for Ebola patient

World Bank, Vincent Tremeau / Flickr cc

The surge in new Ebola cases in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) continued at a brisk pace today, with 14 new cases reported from a broad range of larger and smaller hot spots, the health ministry said in its daily statement.

Also, the World Health Organization (WHO) said in one of its regular updates that it's concerned about rising activity in the wide area responders are covering and about continuing infections in health workers.

New case details

Of the 14 new cases, 7 are in Katwa—the main hot spot—and 3 are in Vuhovi. Four locations each have a single case: Butembo, Mandima, Masereka, and Beni. The new infections boost the overall outbreak total to 1,168 cases, which includes 1,102 confirmed and 66 probable cases. Health officials are still investigating 274 suspected cases.

Also, 10 more people died from their infections, 7 of them in community settings in Katwa, Vuhovi, Masereka, and Mandima. The developments lift the outbreak's overall fatality count to 741.

One of the community deaths involves a health worker in Vuhovi, which the ministry said raises the number of infected health workers to 86, which includes 31 deaths.

Two treatment centers expand

In its statement today, the health ministry detailed developments at Ebola treatment centers (ETCs) in Butembo and Katwa.

It notes that, during the first week of April, the Butembo facility discharged 17 patients, a record number that it says may reduce people's fear of being treated there. And though Butembo residents continue to die from Ebola in the community or local health facilities, an increasing number are agreeing to be transferred to the ETC after symptoms begin, which is known to improve survival.

Bed capacity has been increased for the ETCs in both communities, and at the one in Butembo, the number of health workers has been expanded from 62 to 90 nurses and from 14 to 32 doctors. All were recruited locally.

Experimental therapies are being used again at the treatment centers, but only through the compassionate use protocol and not in a clinical trial context that was in place before the centers were attacked in late February.

Pressure on contact tracing

In its update today, the WHO African regional office said eight health zones have reported cases in the past 3 days, which it added is a concerning development. They are Katwa, Beni, Vuhovi, Mandima, Butembo, Oicha, Kalungata, and Mabalako.

The rising number of cases and broad geographic spread makes contact tracing and adding to the case list difficult. "At the same time, proven and innovative public health measures continue to control the outbreak in some areas," the agency added.

Katwa is still the main focus of the outbreak, and 35% of all confirmed cases have come from there over the past 3 weeks, the WHO said.

Health worker toll

Three more health workers have been infected with Ebola and were among the recently reported cases from Katwa, the WHO said.

One of the health workers died in the community, an occurrence known to increase the risk of transmission. Late confirmation of the worker's infection shows more efforts are needed to strengthen infection prevention and risk communication measures.

Efforts targeting community resistance continue, and health officials successfully defused a recent flare-up related to a confirmed case in Muchanga health area. The patient is now being treated in Butembo's ETC, and the family has been listed for monitoring and prepared for vaccination and household decontamination.

See also:

Apr 9 DRC report

Apr 9 WHO African regional office update

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