Ebola alarm in DR Congo


About 360 people are at potential risk of Ebola after contact with an infected person in eastern Congo and many are out of reach due to clashes and insecurity, the World Health Organisation said.

Dr Michael Ryan, executive director of the WHO Health Emergencies Programme, urged government and all sides to enable aid workers to access areas where the deadly virus may be spreading.

Islamist militiamen killed at least 19 people in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, stepping up attacks on civilians in response to a military campaign against them in border areas with Uganda, local officials said.

The assailants, who apparently belong to the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a Ugandan Islamist group, burned down a Catholic church near Oicha.

Ryan said only seven Ebola cases were recorded last week, it was unable to stamp out the deadly virus due to insecurity.

“The difficulty we collectively face is when we need unlimited and unfettered access to communities we lost that in key areas,” he told a news briefing.

“This is a dangerous and alarming development,” he said.

A male driver died of Ebola in Oicha, North Kivu province, after visiting three health care centres, Ryan said, adding other drivers handled the body at the funeral.

“That case generated over 360 contacts – a large number for any case. We know the person was highly infectious at death. That is why we are concerned,” Ryan said.

At least 62 of the 200 contacts in Oicha were deemed “extreme high risk”, he said. Aid workers located 19. About 159 fled to Kalunguta where most were monitored.

“I don’t believe we are going to see an explosive transmission of Ebola because of this incident,” Ryan said.

“What I am highlighting is we are so close to finishing, if we lose this opportunity we are going to be dealing with that reality for months to come,” he said.

There have been 3 298 Ebola cases including 2 195 deaths since the outbreak was declared in August 2018, Ryan said.

“By the time this Ebola outbreak is over the international community will probably have spent $1 billion.”