The outbreak in the two eastern provinces of Congo has become the worst-known epidemic of the deadly Ebola virus in the history of the country.
Congo The ministry of health said in a statement Saturday that 326 people were infected with the Ebola virus in the provinces of North Kivu and Ituri.
This makes this epidemic worse than the 1976 epidemic in Iambuku, which has infected 318 people and left 280 dead. This epidemic was the first time that scientists identified what is now known as the deadliest Ebola virus strain. The epidemic in Kikwit in 1995 infected 315 people, of which 250 died.
The current epidemic is now the third worst epidemic of Ebola in modern history. The epidemic in West Africa from 2013 to 2015 has infected more than 28,600 people, mostly in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. An epidemic in Uganda in 2000, from the son of Ebola, the son of a son, infected more than 400 people.
After the initial appearance under control, the number of cases in the province of North Kivu was caused in September and October, worrying public health officials around the world. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said at a briefing at Capitol Hill last week that an epidemic could spread so much that the Ebola virus could become endemic to central Africa.
The Congo Ministry of Health, the World Health Organization and non-governmental groups such as the Red Cross and the Doctors Without Borders sent hundreds of people to the epicenter epidemic. They have been vaccinated by more than 28,000 people, including those who have come into contact with Ebola victims and first-line health care workers who are most vulnerable to the virus.
But the answer was partially prevented by an unstable security situation where dozens of armed groups opposed to the government were threatened or attacked by health workers.
A bomb attack that was blamed for Islamic militants across Uganda at the end of August, closed a response in the city of Beni for several days, allowing the virus to spread further. Last month, two health workers of the Congolese army were killed in the ambush.
"No other epidemic in the world has been as complex as the one we are currently experiencing." Since coming to the region, response teams have faced threats, physical attacks, their destruction of equipment and their kidnapping, "said Oli Ilung Kaleng, the Minister of Health of Congo, according to a statement.
The current epidemic started at the end of July, probably when the virus spread to the funeral through the family of a woman who was hurt. The virus later spread to Bena, a regional shopping center of about a quarter of a million inhabitants. From there, it spread to Butembo, an international trade center on the border with Uganda.
About half of the cases so far, 159, appeared in Benny. Another 36 were identified in Butembo. The World Health Organization has sent aid to Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan in anticipation of a chance that the virus can cross international borders.
"There remains a challenge that leads to the control of the intensive transfer in the city of Beni and the focus in the villages around Beni and Butembo," the World Health Organization said in a weekly assessment of the situation on the ground.
North Kivu has about 8 million people, of whom about 1 million are internally displaced after years of ethnic conflict. It is the most populated province in Congo outside the capital city of Kinshasa.
Oliver Johnson, a visiting lecturer in global health at the Royal College of London and the co-author of "Getting Zero: A Doctor and Diplomat of Ebola Frontline", an ebola epidemic book in West Africa for 2014, said the conflict in eastern Congo was a source of distrust towards the government in Kinshasa and any international groups that could come to the scene to try to help.
"There are many doubts that the messages about Ebola and outbreaks are false and part of the plot, which is very difficult to persuade people to seek treatment or behavior changes to protect themselves," Johnson said in a message on Sunday. "There is a real challenge for users who get physical access to affected communities – it is to collect a sick patient through an outpatient clinic to take them to a treatment center, to engage with communities in preventing further spread or distribution of the vaccine."
Violence in North Kivu has limited the US response to the epidemic. After an attack on the Congolese military base in August, the State Department ordered a response from the US Agency for International Development and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) outside the area, first to the Goma regional capital, and then to Kinshasa, 1,700 miles away from the epicenter epidemics.
Moving CDC back to the capital "puts the response to the risk of failure at a critical moment," Johnson said.
The World Health Organization said that in the past seven days there were 29 new cases in the region. Three new health workers were among the new victims.
The World Health Organization said the risk of spreading viruses across domestic or international borders "remained very high." The Ministry of Health has deployed specialists to prepare for the ten provinces around North Kivu.
Health officials take care of more than 5,400 people who have come into contact with Ebola victims, a practice known as the contact mark, in order to bring new cases to treatment for the first sign of infection.
"The epidemic remains dangerous and unpredictable, and we must not let our guards", said Health Minister Kalenga. "We must continue to implement a very dynamic response that requires lasting adjustment and real ownership at the community level."