Ebola Outbreak Hits Congo, WHO Warns Of ‘Potential Perfect Storm’

The World Health Organization has confirmed hundreds of cases of the Ebola virus in the North Kivu Province.

A World Health Organization (WHO), instructor teaches new health workers during a training session.
John Moore / Getty Images

The World Health Organization has confirmed hundreds of cases of the Ebola virus in the North Kivu Province.

A new Ebola outbreak has hit the Congo, the Ministry of Health of the Democratic Republic of the Congo declared on August 1, according to the World Health Organization, or WHO. The most recent outbreak is spreading through the North Kivu Province, with a total of 422 cases as of November 27, 375 of which have been confirmed. There have been 242 reported deaths as a result.

The Ministry of Health, WHO, and partners responded to the outbreak. The outbreak in Congo makes it the second largest Ebola outbreak in history, according to WHO, as reported by the Associated Press. The largest outbreak killed thousands in West Africa a few years ago. It is feared the current outbreak is not slowing down any time soon.

Dr. Peter Salama, the WHO Deputy Director-General, Emergency Preparedness and Response, stated in a September 25 press release that the situation surrounding the current outbreak has created the potential for a perfect storm regarding this disease.

“I previously described the context for the Ebola outbreak in North Kivu as arguably the most difficult context we have ever faced, as WHO and the UN system, in terms of responding to an Ebola outbreak. We are now extremely concerned that several factors may be coming together over the next weeks to months to create a potential perfect storm. A perfect storm of active conflict limiting our ability to access civilians, distrust by segments of the community already traumatized by decades of conflict and of murder, driven by a fear of a terrifying disease but also exploited and manipulated by local politicians prior to an election.”

With the escalation of violence in the surrounding area, WHO faces a problem treating those affected by the virus. Many reside in red zones surrounded by rebel groups. Though the group receives positive feedback from some of the community, many refuse the help. One small village is responsible for a large portion of cases.

World Health Organization (WHO), staff train new health workers during an Ebola training session
  John Moore / Getty Images

The Ebola virus is a rare and deadly virus that is also known as Ebola hemorrhagic fever. It is spread by contact of bodily fluids of an infected person, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, as well as by contact with contaminated objects or infected animals. The virus can cause fever, headache, sore throat, muscle and joint aches, diarrhea, vomiting, weakness, rash, stomach pain, red eyes, and internal and external bleeding.

Salama suggests it could take at least another six months, and an untold number of additional cases, for the current outbreak to be under control, according to the Associated Press.