Against a backdrop of steadily rising Ebola cases, health officials in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) are bracing for more attacks, as threats continue in the big epicenters of Butembo and Katwa, and are on the rise in smaller hots spots such as Lubero and Kalunguta, the World Health Organization (WHO) said yesterday in a weekly situation report.
Meanwhile, the country's health ministry was poised to report 19 new cases today, according to the latest information from the WHO's online Ebola dashboard.
Situation still 'highly unpredictable'
The WHO said that last week saw a drop in the number and severity of security incidents, and responders were able to conduct most of their activities as planned. "However, despite this short lull, the situation remains highly unpredictable," it said.
Threats to response teams and facilities continue, particularly in Butembo and Katwa, but armed groups are present in smaller hot spots, and direct threats against Ebola response teams are on the rise, including leaflets and intimidation of local health workers who are collaborating with response teams. The uncertain settings include Lubero, Kalungunta, Mabalako, Masereka, and Komanda.
Echoing a concern raised yesterday in the WHO African regional office update, the WHO said another concern is that health workers are refusing to wear personal protective equipment (PPE) in health facilities and are performing only routine infection prevention and control (IPC) measures, based on violent threats from community members.
For example, in Masereka, threats to burn down health facilities prompted health providers in some locations to avoid wearing PPE or to institute IPC practices.
For the week ending May 19, 121 new confirmed cases were reported, mostly in Mabalako, Beni, Butembo, Kalunguta, Katwa, Mandima, and Musienene health zones.
Cases climb to 1,866
The 19 new cases reflected in the WHO's online Ebola dashboard raise the outbreak total to 1,866 cases, including 1,778 confirmed and 88 listed as probable. The number of deaths stands at 1,223.
In an update from the DRC's health ministry covering yesterday's developments, officials said a health worker from Masereka is among the slew of new cases, raising the number of infections in that group to 104, including 34 deaths.
The report said the health worker had been vaccinated, but did not say how long ago he or she had been immunized. Typically, it takes 10 days for protection from the vaccine to kick in.
In other related developments yesterday, Canada's United Nations delegation yesterday announced a $1 million contribution to the WHO's contingency fund for emergencies to help fight Ebola and other global health threats, according to a tweet from the group.
May 21 WHO Ebola situation report
May 21 DRC update
WHO online Ebola dashboard
May 21 Canada UN Geneva tweet