US concerned about DRC Ebola outbreak


The United States is worried about the outbreak of Ebola in conflict-hit eastern Congo where there are 312 confirmed and probable cases and 191 deaths, a USAID official said.
“We are concerned about the ongoing outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo,” the senior USAID official, working with response teams, told Reuters. “It is not comparable currently to the outbreak in West Africa in 2014,” which spread to nine countries and involved more than 28,000 cases, she said.

There is concern because the current outbreak was in an active conflict zone in North Kivu, making it hard for health workers to track down and isolate cases, the official said.
“It is in an area of active conflict, so physical insecurity is a persistent challenge and complication to ongoing response efforts,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“At this point we are not seeing cases spread across any large geographic area,” the official said, adding most cases were in Beni and increasingly in nearby Butembo.

The rate of new cases accelerated in recent weeks and neighbouring Uganda will begin to vaccinate some health workers against Ebola in case the viral haemorrhagic fever spreads.

The World Health Organisation said the outbreak did not yet constitute a public health emergency of international concern.

The USAID official said the United States deployed over two dozen technical experts to the country to work with Congo’s health ministry since August.

Since then, the United States had also deployed disaster and health experts from USAID and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The official declined to give specifics about responses and funding because of the security threat from armed groups.

Congo has suffered 10 Ebola outbreaks since the virus was discovered near its eponymous Ebola River in 1976.

The official said lessons learned from the West Africa Ebola crisis were being applied in Congo, including improved approaches to treatment and isolation allowing for better patient care.