Officials confirm 7 more Ebola cases in DRC

Officials in the Democratic Congo of the Republic (DRC) confirmed seven more Ebola cases late yesterday and announced new measures to curb the spread of the deadly disease. Six of the cases are in Beni, and one is in Masereka, 100 kilometers (62 miles) away.

There are now 188 cases of the hemorrhagic fever disease in the outbreak, including 118 deaths, the DRC health ministry said. Twenty cases remain under investigation. There have been 23 new cases in the past 5 days, a contrast to previous recent weeks, which saw only a trickle of cases.

As of today, four administrative measures will be put in place in Beni, the new epicenter of the outbreak, the health ministry said. The steps include making it illegal to harbor a suspected Ebola patient, using security forces to monitor and implement safe burials, requiring families to show official death certificates before obtaining a burial certificate, and obligating all health professionals (including traditional healers) to report suspected cases to Ebola treatment centers.

Officials said the new decree comes after a month of attacks and acts of resistance to response efforts in Beni and the surrounding areas. Though the Ebola outbreak in North Kivu province began on Aug 1 in Mblanka, activity has now moved to Beni as health workers fight a second wave of cases connected to people who refused vaccination or dodged case contact follow-up.

Three cases tied to 1 clinic

Three of the new cases involve children all seen at the same clinic in Butanuka district, Beni. Officials said risk of additional cases from the three children—all of whom died—is high. To date, 19 healthcare workers have been infected during this outbreak, and 3 have died.

In its latest situation report on the Ebola virus disease (EVD) outbreak, the World Health Organization (WHO) said yesterday that all healthcare personnel infections have occurred from exposure outside the healthcare setting. As of Oct 7, the WHO said the current outbreak's case-fatality rate is 63.5%, and 55% of cases involve female patients.

"The EVD outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo remains at a critical juncture due to the prevailing security threats, community reluctance and increased geographical spread. Response teams continue to face challenges that require ongoing community engagement efforts, as well as the ability to adapt strategies according to context," the WHO said. "Collectively, these challenges have contributed to an increase in the incidence of new cases observed in recent weeks."

The WHO also detailed the surveillance situation in North Kivu, noting that, as of Oct 7, a total of 2,115 contacts were being monitored and 91% had been seen on that date; 202 had not been seen, of which (180) 89% were registered in Beni. Forty contacts have been "lost to follow-up," 37 of whom are from Beni.

Violence and vaccination

The recent increase in cases can be tied to regional insecurity, the WHO said. On Oct 2, a Red Cross team assisting in a safe and dignified burial near Butembo was attacked while working.

"These Red Cross teams have faced incidents of violence from communities resisting safe and dignified burial protocols since the start of the Ebola outbreak in North Kivu province; however, the recent attack represents a new level of aggression," the WHO said.

Despite setbacks, a ring vaccination campaign is still under way in the region. As of yesterday, a total of 15,279 people have been vaccinated, including 5,385 in Beni, 4,289 in Mabalako, 1,663 in Mandima, 1,392 in Katwa, 1,100 in Butembo, 434 in Bunia, 355 in Tchomia, 300 in Masereka, 240 in Komanda, and 121 in Oicha.

See also:

Oct 9 DRC update

Oct 9 WHO situation report

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