As Ebola cases continue to pile up, the World Health Organization (WHO) today reiterated that the outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) will be defeated only with local communities at the helm of response efforts.
The message came from Ibrahima-Soce Fall, MD, WHO assistant director-general for emergency response, who held a brief teleconference this morning from Butembo.
With 72 Ebola cases reported last week and 56 in the previous week, March was a low point for responders, as activity spiked and the outbreak topped the 1,000-case milestone.
"But of 21 health zones with Ebola, we have only 13 recorded cases in recent weeks, which shows a kind of geographic limitation to the outbreak," Fall said. "We are continuing [to adapt] our tactics."
Fall said Butembo and Katwa remain the hot spots of virus activity. And the outbreak already approaches 1,100 cases, with 3 new infections noted today.
Cases follow violence
The community-led tactics that Fall described include surveillance and vaccination and, most important, according to Fall, the recruitment of locals in response activities.
Without local health workers, he explained, response teams deal far too often with vaccination hesitancy, refusal of follow-up surveillance, and general mistrust of the "riposte" or foreign-led outbreak response.
According to the most recent outbreak situation report from the WHO's regional African office, Katwa reported 28% (44/160) of all confirmed cases in the past 21 days. Vuhovi, Mandima, Masereka, and Butembo recorded 20%, 15%, 12%, and 8%, respectively.
"Following recent episodes of violence, there has been an increase in the weekly number of cases, after many weeks of overall decline," the WHO said. "Contact follow-up and community reluctance to report suspicious deaths, with subsequent un-safe burials, continue to be a problem."
Recent cases include health worker
As of today, DRC officials confirmed 1,092 cases of Ebola, with 81 of those occurring in healthcare workers, representing 7.4% of all confirmed and probable cases. Twenty-eight healthcare workers have died. The overall case-fatality rate for the outbreak stands at 62%.
Officials confirmed 3 new cases today, 1 each in Katwa, Butembo, and Mandima. Seven new deaths were recorded in the past 2 days, including 2 community deaths in Katwa and 1 in Vuhovi. So far 683 deaths have been recorded since the outbreak began last August.
As of today, 93,996 persons have been vaccinated , including 23,310 in Katwa, 21,394 in Beni, 11,399 in Butembo, 6,109 in Mabalako, and 3,559 in Mandima. Officials are using Merck's rVSV-ZEBOV vaccine.
In the WHO's regional report, the organization noted resistance to vaccination in the Kaniyi health area of Masereka health zone.
Apr 2 DRC update
Apr 1 DRC update
Mar 31 WHO African regional report