Over the past week, three health zones in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) reported their first confirmed Ebola cases, a worrisome sign that the outbreak is spreading to new areas, the World Health Organization's (WHO's) African regional office said today in a weekly update.
In other developments, in updates yesterday and today the DRC's health ministry reported eight new cases along with four more deaths from the disease.
Latest cases include 4 in security red zone
In its daily update yesterday, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) health ministry said two new cases were reported in Beni, and another person from Butembo had died from the disease.
Then in an update today, officials reported six more cases, which include one in Butembo, one in Katwa health zone, and four in Kalunguta, which is in a security "red zone" area. Also today, the health ministry reported three more Ebola deaths, all in Butembo, the urban outbreak hot spot.
Based on adjustments to the Ebola database, the health ministry said yesterday that Ebola totals have changed slightly and now reflect three more probable cases. As of today, the new numbers reflect 339 cases, including 301 confirmed and 38 probable. The fatality count is at 212.
Health officials are investigating 43 suspected Ebola infections.
In yesterday's update, the health ministry said attacks that occurred Sunday in the Boikene area near Beni temporarily halted Ebola vaccination activities yesterday, but it noted today that immunization has resumed.
Spread to more geographic areas
The WHO's African regional office update focuses on 31 cases and 19 deaths reported since Nov 2. Over the past week, three new health zones have reported confirmed cases. They include a case confirmed on Nov 7 from Mutwanga health zone near the Uganda border, an illness confirmed on Nov 8 from Kyondo health zone near Butembo, and an infection confirmed on Nov 9 from Musienene health zone, an area that had previously recorded a probable case.
Two more health worker infections were reported on Nov 9, raising the total number of health workers infected in the outbreak to 30, including 3 deaths.
Insecurity and persistent community resistance still pose problems for contact tracing, but as of Nov 10, the proportion of contacts followed was 94%, the WHO said.
"The EVD outbreak continues to be of grave concern, particularly with geographical spread of the disease to new areas, as well as the increasing number of confirmed cases and contacts to be followed," the WHO said. It added that a plan for strengthening infection prevention and control in Beni and other areas needs to be put in place, along with continued collaboration with Mai Mai groups in Kalunguta, a security "red zone", to help with the investigation of deaths in the community and in hospitals and to follow up with contact vaccination.
Attacks by armed groups in Beni and surrounding areas continue to pose a major security threat, officials said.
Nov 12 WHO African regional office weekly outbreak and health emergency update
Nov 12 DRC update
Nov 13 DRC update