Ebola still claiming lives as DRC cases climb to 835

Ebola treatment center workers
Ebola treatment center workers

UN Photo, Ari Gaitanis / Flickr cc

The pace of new Ebola cases in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) slowed slightly last week, though the outbreak's intensity is still moderate, the World Health Organization (WHO) said yesterday in its weekly overview.

Meanwhile, in a daily update today, the DRC's health ministry announced that the virus has likely infected six more people, in Katwa and Komanda, and killed five more, including an infant.

Community resistance still a factor

The WHO said Katwa and Butembo are still the hot spots, though small widely dispersed clusters continue to be reported.

It added that a recent illness reported in Komanda in a person from Katwa who had also traveled to Bunia highlights the threat of reintroducing the virus into earlier affected areas where cases had declined.

The WHO said that, over the past week, top challenges have been community mistrust, especially in Katwa, and difficulty encouraging members of the public to be more proactive in reporting people with suspected cases, seeking early care at Ebola treatment centers, and participating in community-based response actions.

Still, proven response steps have curbed the spread of Ebola, the agency said. "Fostering greater community trust by strengthening engagement with its members remains a top priority for response teams," the WHO said.

One more health worker infection was reported, an individual in Katwa, raising that number to 68.

On Feb 13 the DRC's health ministry launched the third phase of its response, which will cover the next 6 months, with the main goals of stopping transmission in North Kivu and Ituri provinces and prevent spread of Ebola to other DRC provinces and neighboring countries.

To support the next phase, the WHO, the DRC, and their partners are asking for $148 million from the international community.

Two confirmed cases, baby's death

In addition to two new confirmed cases today, the DRC health ministry reported four new probable cases, all in Komanda. The developments lift the overall outbreak total to 835 cases, which includes 770 confirmed and 65 probable cases. An additional 221 suspected cases are still under investigation.

In addition, officials said five more people died from their infections, one in a community setting in Katwa and four in treatment centers—three in Katwa and one in Bunia.

Included in the total is a 6-month old baby from Bunia whose illness was announced yesterday and who died at the city's Ebola treatment center after being in critical condition, which prohibited transfer to the Ebola facility in Komanda.

The mother was from Katwa and died from the disease, and authorities intercepted her body in Komanda. The latest deaths bring the outbreak's fatality count to 530.

In other outbreak developments, the total number of people vaccinated is approaching 80,000. In its update today, the health ministry said that, since Aug 8, 2018, a  total of 79,774 people have been immunized with Merck's unlicensed VSV-EBOV vaccine.

See also:

Feb 14 WHO update

Feb 15 DRC update

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