NBC News reports that a combination of political manipulation and conflict is making it harder than ever to fight the growing outbreak of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
According to the World Health Organization, the Congo’s health ministry has reported 150 cases of suspected or confirmed Ebola. WHO said 100 individuals have died.
Unfortunately, various rebel and militant groups have been attacking the area for years. But they’ve recently increased the fighting, making it even more difficult to fight the outbreak, which has been occurring for two months now. According to WHO’s head of emergency preparedness, Dr. Peter Salama, “We are now extremely concerned that several factors may be coming together over the next weeks to months to create a potential perfect storm.”
Dr. Salama went on to explain that the conflict is making it more difficult for aid workers to test and treat for the disease. And politicians are spreading fears ahead of a local election. “That resistance, driven by quite natural fear of this terrifying disease, is starting to be exploited by local politicians. The confusion may make it difficult to extinguish the outbreak.” This could cause the outbreak to become similar to the Ebola epidemic of 2014, which killed over 11,000 people worldwide.
People in the area are already traumatized by years of murder and conflict. They are fleeing in many regions and the Ebola outbreak could easily spread to Uganda.
This is the second Ebola outbreak the Congo has had this year. Another outbreak occurred in the western part of the country but was declared to be over in July. It infected 53 people and took the lives of 33. Unfortunately, this second outbreak happened just days later in another area of the large nation.
There is now a vaccine for the illness and WHO has vaccinated over 11,000 people, but many people are reluctant to get the vaccine.
Attacks in the city of Beni have forced WHO to stop operations there. Beni had been the main base for the WHO’s work in the province, called North Kivu.
Ebola is an extremely deadly virus that can be transmitted by humans and animals. According to Healthline, it was first discovered in 1976 in Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Until recently it had only been seen in Africa, but in March 2014 the largest outbreak of Ebola ever seen began. During that outbreak, the virus managed to spread to four people in the U.S., one person in Spain, and one person in Italy. In total, there were 28,616 cases of Ebola globally and over 11,000 people died.