New Ebola cases highlight challenges in DRC

Ebola response in Beni, DR Congo
Ebola response in Beni, DR Congo

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD, and other officials in the Beni outbreak region., MONUSCO, Alain Coulibaly / Flickr cc

Health officials in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) reported two more cases of Ebola virus late yesterday, a fatal case in a patient whose family refused vaccination and an illness in a patient from a community marked by resistance to outbreak response efforts.

The cases illustrate the challenges facing DRC and World Health Organization (WHO) health workers in the conflict-ridden region.

Cases climb to 161

Officials have now reported 161 cases of Ebola in DRC, including 105 deaths. Nine cases are still under investigation. Though case counts have slowed in recent weeks, the outbreak is still ongoing in an insecure, unstable region, the WHO's regional office for Africa said in a weekly update.

The first new case involved a woman from Beni who died. DRC officials said she was the daughter of another Ebola patient who passed away at the Beni Ebola treatment center on Sep 22. The family refused vaccination and follow-up care.

The second case is man from Komanda. He belonged to a family that also refused vaccination, and was known to be behind pockets of resistance in the region. The man's sister-in-law was the first Ebola case-patient in Tchomia, near the Ugandan border. According to officials, the man fled Tchomia after his sister-in-law's death and was found hospitalized in a health post in Komanda. He will be transferred to the Tchomia isolation center.

Officials also said that Beni, a city in North Kivu province, remains the epicenter of recent virus activity, noting that 8 of the 9 cases confirmed from Sep 24 to 30 occurred in the city, as well as all 4 deaths reported during the same period.

"Beni is reporting an increasing number of all new cases, indicating the persistence of active transmission of Ebola virus in this area. The Beni Health Zone has reported 60% of all cases reported since early September 2018," the WHO said.

As of Sep 28, 91% of case contacts in Beni are being followed. The WHO also said that, as of Sep 25, three DRC refugees in Uganda are being monitored. The refugees are case contacts of a fatal case in Tchomia.

Vaccination with Merck's unlicensed Ebola vaccine is still ongoing in North Kivu, the DRC health ministry noted. Since Aug 8, a total of 13,208 people have been vaccinated, including 4,207 in Mabalako, 4,095 in Beni, 1,632 in Mandima, 1,193 in Katwa, 944 in Butembo, 270 in Masereka, 260 in Tchomia, 257 in Bunia, 164 in Komanda, 121 in Oicha, and 65 in Kinshasa.

DART Team deployed to DRC

Also yesterday, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) announced the deployment of a Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) to DRC in an effort to bring an elite team of disaster and health experts from USAID and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to the region.

"The team of disaster experts will expand life-saving healthcare, water and sanitation, and other critical assistance to prevent the spread of the disease. The DART will also work closely with the Government of the DRC and health organizations to provide technical expertise," USAID said in a statement.

See also:

Oct 1 DRC update

Sep 28 WHO weekly summary

Oct 1 USAID statement

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