According to the World Health Organization, 33 people have been reported dead from the Ebola virus outbreak spreading throughout the Democratic Republic of Congo, as of Sunday. In addition, another 43 suspected cases were reported, 13 of which were confirmed by lab testing.
So far, the Ebola outbreak has infiltrated five health zones in the North Kivu province and one zone in the Ituri province, which health officials say poses a serious problem since North Kivu “borders Rwanda and Uganda and trade activity fuels heavy movement across the borders.”
Additionally, North Kivu is currently serving as the host province to more than a million people, who have been displaced due to armed militant groups, according to CNN. The country director for Congo for Oxfam, Jose Barahona, reported on Friday that, “This is happening in the middle of a huge humanitarian crisis. We have more than 4 million people displaced by conflict.”
“In the east of Congo,” Barahona continued, “there are more than 100 different armed groups.”
The World Health Organization’s Head of Emergencies, Peter Salama, recently reported that health officials are “responding to an outbreak of this high-threat pathogen, with one of the highest mortality rates of any known disease, but in the context of a war zone.”
Prior to the WHO’s announcement of the Ebola outbreak on Wednesday, the Congolese government had reported another outbreak in the Equateur province around 1,553 miles away.
The WHO has also confirmed that an additional 33 suspected cases have been reported in the North Kivu province. Officials there are currently awaiting lab test results that will either “confirm or exclude Ebola virus disease.”
In addition to the several Congolese citizens who have been infected with the virus, three healthcare workers were also infected, two of whom have since died.
The WHO released a statement assuring the public that, “The Ministry of Health, WHO, and partners are working to establish the full extent of this outbreak.”
Joint delegation of @MinSanteRDC, WHO, @UNICEF, @WorldBank, @MONUSCO, @UNOCHA and Governor of North Kivu arrived in Beni, a city 30 km from where a new cluster of presumptive #Ebola cases is occurring in #DRC ????????. They will be supporting the team already on the ground. pic.twitter.com/fHJSz21BJ3
— WHO African Region (@WHOAFRO) August 2, 2018
During the last Ebola outbreak, healthcare workers administered an experimental vaccine to those infected with the deadly virus, but this time the WHO is waiting to distribute the vaccine until they are certain of the exact strain of the virus that is currently plaguing the region.
Barahona also noted, “This is a larger area than we are used to dealing with.”
While nine other outbreaks have previously affected the Democratic Republic of Congo, the military conflict in the North Kivu province presents an additional obstacle.
“It won’t be so easy this time,” Salama said.