The current Ebola Virus outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) reached a terrifying new milestone last week as the number of confirmed cases of the hemorrhagic fever crossed the 500 patient mark. Currently, this outbreak is the second largest in history and is showing no signs of receding any time soon. Complicating the matter are the ongoing regional conflicts in the affected areas, as well as a general lack of understanding about the virus amongst the population, according to a report from the World Health Organization (WHO).
Marie Jeanne Kavira works with the #Ebola response #vaccination team. She engages with communities, dispelling rumors and quelling resistance. By mid-December, there was much less resistance to being vaccinated in #Beni, she says. @WHO #DRC #HealthForAll pic.twitter.com/MpULmHP7Qd
— WHO African Region (@WHOAFRO) December 19, 2018
While the number of people in the DRC contracting the disease is growing, the virus has not spread outside of the two affected provinces, nor has it crossed the border into South Sudan, Rwanda, or Uganda. However, these countries have begun vaccinating their healthcare workers for Ebola as a precaution. Some believe it is only a matter of time before the virus shows up, due to the high volume of cross-border transit that occurs around the affected areas.
Still, the WHO does not consider the current outbreak a threat to international public health and is “against any restriction of travel to, and trade with, the Democratic Republic of the Congo.” Still, about “19 million travelers” moving in and out of the DRC have been screened by health teams. The workers have also sanitized vehicles which are traveling through the affected area and international medical teams are working on both sides of the border to conduct surveillance and decontamination operations. Slightly more than 4500 people have received the Ebola Virus vaccine, about a third of them being healthcare workers responsible for direct patient care. The other vaccines have been divided between people who have come into contact with the virus and their families.
As for the patients, a total of 326 patients with either confirmed or suspected Ebola have died, according to a report from the DRC’s Ministry of Health. The current mortality rate for this outbreak is hovering slightly below 60 percent. A little more than half of the patients are female, and about a quarter are under the age of 15. Close to 50 healthcare workers have contracted the virus, and at least 15 have died as a result.
🚨#Ebola – Situation au mercredi 19 décembre 2018
– Au total, 549 cas (501 confirmés et 48 probables), 326 décès et 193 personnes guéries
– 7 nouveaux cas confirmés
– 7 nouveaux décès
– 1 nouveau guéri
– 82 cas suspectshttps://t.co/lFkktCOz1w pic.twitter.com/fU2KeeZQF3
— Ministère de la Santé RDC (@MinSanteRDC) December 19, 2018
The DRC and the WHO are not fighting this outbreak alone — around 30 government and non-governmental agencies from around the globe are in-country conducting operations. From the United States, both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) have teams on the ground in the DRC. The CDC is not only working in the affected areas but has also sent personnel into neighboring countries to help prepare their healthcare infrastructure for incoming cases should the Virus leave the DRC.