In a snapshot of the latest patterns in the Democratic Republic of the Congo's (DRC's) Ebola outbreak yesterday, the World Health Organization (WHO) said conditions are "unforgiving," with community resistance and conflict hampering the response and poor infection prevention and control practices in certain health facilities amplifying disease spread.
Today the DRC's health ministry reported six more cases, including three from Dec 12 in patients whose lab results were released late in the day.
Intensifying activity in Butembo, Katwa
The WHO said the infection control problems are occurring at several private and public health centers. The agency underscored the fact that Ebola virus spread in the clinic doesn't just affect patients, it's a threat to health workers, as well. Over the past week, four new infections were reported in healthcare workers, raising the total to 51, including 17 deaths.
The pace of new infections has averaged about 33 a week since the middle of October, and though there has been some decline in Beni—the main hot spot—the outbreak is intensifying in Butembo and Katwa, with new clusters popping up elsewhere. "At present, the situation remains concerning," the WHO said, noting that affected health zones reflect a mix of densely populated urban areas and remote villages, resulting in different transmission patterns and response challenges.
A high risk of further spread was exemplified this week when several contacts from Beni traveled to Kisangani and Goma, the provincial capital. The WHO said health officials quickly found the contacts, who returned to Beni to complete their 21-day follow-up. Also, several alerts for suspected cases came from Goma and locations between Goma and Butembo, and responders quickly isolated the patients, all of whom tested negative for the virus.
Despite the tough challenges and conditions, the WHO said progress has been made on several fronts, with new tools such as vaccination and experimental treatments in use alongside proven tactics such as surveillance and rapid isolation.
Latest case details
The six new cases push the overall outbreak total to 521 cases, 473 of them confirmed and 48 listed as probable. Three of the newly infected patients are from Komanda, two from Beni, and one from Kalunguta.
Two more deaths were reported, one in Kalunguta and one in Komanda, and both occurred in the community, a factor that raises the risk of Ebola spread. The fatality count in the outbreak now stands at 306.
In vaccination developments, health officials began immunizing frontline providers in Goma health zone, where the recent alerts were issued, the health ministry said.
Also, a new vaccination ring opened in the South Mabanga district of Karisimbi health zone, located in Goma, targeting people identified as contacts of a group from Beni who had been identified as contacts but traveled to Goma.
So far, 46,047 people have been vaccinated since the campaign with Merck's experimental VSV-EBOV vaccine began on Aug 8.
Dec 13 WHO statement
Dec 14 DRC update