WORLD Congo: Ebola outbreak ‘certainly’ to last 3-4 months more

WORLD

Congo: Ebola outbreak ‘certainly’ to last 3-4 months more

AP

01:37, December 21, 2018

Congo.jpeg

Health Minister Oly Ilunga speaks to a reporter in Beni, Democratic Republic of Congo on December 20, 2018. (Photo: AP)

The second-deadliest Ebola outbreak in history is “certainly” expected to continue for another three or four months, Congo’s health minister said Thursday.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Health Minister Oly Ilunga also sought to calm concerns days ahead of a presidential election in which millions of people will use touch-screen voting machines. The deadly Ebola virus is spread via infected bodily fluids, so some worry they may pick it up from the screens.

The minister said precautions have been taken. Several tons of hand sanitizer have been deployed for use in polling stations throughout the outbreak zone in eastern Congo, and voters are being encouraged to sanitize their hands before and after using the machines.

So far there have been 549 Ebola cases in the outbreak that was declared on Aug. 1, including 501 confirmed cases. There have been 278 confirmed deaths.

This Ebola outbreak is the most complex in history amid attacks by rebel groups, the health minister said. But in an upbeat development, he sees “clear, clear, clear improvement” in community response to Ebola containment efforts.

The response in wary places like Beni, where more than 1,000 people have been killed in rebel attacks in recent years, has at times been harsh, with some health workers attacked. This is the first time that eastern Congo has faced an Ebola outbreak, and responders have raced to combat rumors and misunderstandings.

There are still risks of confrontation every time the virus spreads into a new area, the health minister said. But “we can notice today that there is an acceptance, in general, an engagement in the community.”

Ebola’s possible spread into so-called “red zones,” where the threat of rebel attack makes response work almost impossible, remains a concern.

The minister said his biggest worries continue to be Ebola’s possible spread to other major cities in eastern Congo, such as Goma near the Rwanda border, and across the heavily traveled border into Uganda, which already has begun giving frontline health workers an experimental Ebola vaccine.

Uganda is the focus of “intense collaboration” with health officials there, the minister said.

He said that every time a new case of Ebola is declared, health officials must allow about 60 days from that date, with no new occurrences, before the outbreak can be considered over.


Related Stories

Terms of Service & Privacy Policy

We have updated our privacy policy to comply with the latest laws and regulations. The updated policy explains the mechanism of how we collect and treat your personal data. You can learn more about the rights you have by reading our terms of service. Please read them carefully. By clicking AGREE, you indicate that you have read and agreed to our privacy policies

Agree and continue