More Ebola cases reported from Beni; WHO update covers more 'red zone' risks

Displaced people
Displaced people

Internally displaced person camp near Goma in 2014, UN Photo/Sylvain Liechti/Flickr cc

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) health ministry today reported three more lab-confirmed Ebola cases, all from Beni, the current outbreak hot spot.

In related developments, field teams are making headway in the main outbreak areas in recent weeks, but big risks remain, given continuing cases from Beni and near Kasenyi, which is in a security "red zone" and close to internally displaced person camps, the World Health Organization (WHO) said yesterday in its weekly situation report.

Beni cases, plus more community deaths

The new cases lift the overall total to 223, which includes 188 confirmed and 35 probable cases. Also, the health ministry reported two more deaths, raising the fatality count to 144. Both involved people from Beni who died in the community, an event known to increase the risk of spread, but were buried safely.

Health officials are also investigating 46 suspected cases.

In other outbreak developments, DRC Health Minister Oly Ilunga Kalenga, MD, traveled to Beni today to unveil a new response plan, based on a review of the strengths and weaknesses during the first 2 months of the response.

Goals of the plan are to step up response capacity targeting active households to stop the epidemic by the end of November, with a further monitoring, prevention, and control phase put in place until the end of January 2019. Some highlights of the new plan include boosting ownership and community engagement, tying the response to local health systems, and preparing other provinces to tackle the possible spread of the virus.

So far 18,998 people have been vaccinated, including 8,422 in Beni.

Security still a problem

The WHO said there's evidence of ongoing transmission in communities, especially Beni. In more than half of new cases, investigations are still under way to establish the epidemiologic links.

Also, searches are being conducted for lost contacts in Beni and Komanda health zones, according to the report.

Security is still a problem for safe burial teams in Beni and Butembo. Also, because of the fragile situation in Butembo (the urban outbreak location), the Red Cross still hasn't fully resumed burial activities since an incident on Oct 2 injured some of its workers.

On a positive note, negotiations with an armed group in a territory where a confirmed case had been lost to follow-up resulted in the group agreeing to allow a response team into the area to administer vaccine. "This is a critical step forward to reach populations in the red zones," the WHO said.

See also:

Oct 18 DRC update

Oct 17 WHO situation report

This week's top reads