Ebola Likely to Spread From Congo to Uganda, W.H.O. Says
The risk of Ebola escaping from the Democratic Republic of Congo is now “very high,” and the outbreak already is nearing Uganda, the planet Health Organization said on Thursday.
The W.H.O. raised its official alert level due to violence by local militias, which has slowed efforts to contain the outbreak and population movements in eastern Congo, where the latest outbreak erupted in August.
But the danger of Ebola spreading globally remains low, the agency said.
Since 2000, Uganda has had three Ebola outbreaks, with a complete of about 600 cases.
Although it's a poor country, its health care system is comparatively well organized, and its the health ministry said it might start a vaccination campaign if it detected cases there.
Inside Congo, the response to the outbreak has been hampered by fighting and by small numbers of victims leaving or refusing to travel to treatment centers, spreading the virus to new areas.
Also, local politicians exploiting the fear and confusion before December elections were encouraging people to distrust the national government’s efforts, Dr. Peter Salama, the W.H.O.’s head of emergency response said at a press conference in Geneva, Reuters reported.
In the coming weeks, problems like those could “create a possible perfect storm,” Dr. Salama said.
As of Friday, there are 155 confirmed or probable cases within the Ebola outbreak. Some 102 patients have died, and 45 cured patients are released.
In a video statement, Congo’s health minister, Dr. Oly Ilunga Kalenga said the outbreak was now 3 times the dimensions of the one this summer within the central Equateur Province. He blamed several factors.
More people sleep in the affected area, and that they are more mobile because they're mostly traders rather than farmers. The region has better roads and water connections, but is more dangerous because many militias operate in it.
Nearly 12,000 doctors and contacts of known victims are vaccinated.
Although cases of Ebola continued to say no and only about 10 new ones are detected each week, the W.H.O. expressed alarm that one had turned up for the primary time in Thomas, a fishing town across Lake Albert from Uganda.
Refugees often flee across the lake; just this year, 75,000 Congolese crossed it into Uganda to flee fighting in Ituri province, of which Tshomia maybe apart, consistent with a report from the European Commission’s humanitarian aid organization.
Officials in Ituri said the case was a lady who had attended the funeral of an early Ebola victim in Beni, where the present outbreak began.
She was being followed as a case contact, but she refused to be vaccinated, slipped away in between visits from medical workers, and traveled about 75 miles north before falling ill. She visited a standard healer and a rural clinic before ultimately dying within the Tshomia regional hospital on Sept. 20.
More than 100 people in touch together with her are now being vaccinated, and therefore the mud-walled the local clinic she visited had to be decontaminated.
Although doctors haven't been targeted, 21 people were killed last week in Beni.
An Islamic fundamentalist militia referred to as the Allied Democratic Forces was blamed.
The group features a history of cross-border fighting with the Ugandan army, attacks on United Nations peacekeepers and massacres of civilians.
After the killings, medical staff were told to prevent working for 48 hours; they are subsequent efforts were hampered by a four-day mourning period declared by local officials, the W.H.O. said.
Many rumors about Ebola are circulating and must be debunked, consistent with the health ministry’s Twitter feed.
They include reports that prisoners with Ebola had escaped from the Beni prison, that children were being vaccinated without their parents’ consent, and that schoolgirls who had their menstrual periods were being forced into treatment centers.
Four Ebola treatment centers have now been built, and a treatment team has arrived in Thomas.