One in four DRC Ebola cases goes undetected

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Roughly a quarter of Ebola infections in eastern Congo are estimated undetected or found too late, a World Health Organisation (WHO) expert said.

Some 2,025 cases and 1,357 deaths have been recorded since the epidemic began in August in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s North Kivu and Ituri provinces, said Dr Mike Ryan, executive director of WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme.

It is the second-worst outbreak of the virus on record.

Some 88 infections have been detected each of the last two weeks, down from a peak of 126 weekly in April and WHO teams are following up on 15,000 suspected contacts each day, a “huge number” who require checking for symptoms, he added.

“We believe, let me be cautious, we believe we are probably detecting in excess of 75% of cases – we may be missing up to a quarter of cases,” Ryan told a news briefing in Geneva.

There were “a lot of cases with delayed detection”, he added. “We must get earlier detection of cases and have more exhaustive identification of cases.”

The epidemic was not under control and was spreading fast in the rural area Mabalako.

Ryan said risks to aid workers were less but noted a deadly attack on civilians earlier this week.

A local official said 13 civilians were killed late on Monday in an attack by the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) – a group thought to be linked to Islamic State.

Greater political engagement is needed to combat the Ebola outbreak, Ryan said. “We need government to reach out to the opposition, we need an ‘all party’ approach, we need a single voice of leaders in Congo about this outbreak.”