Ebola continues its deadly march through DRC

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JOHANNESBURG, December 4 – The Ebola epidemic continues to spread through the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)’s North Kivu province, claiming the lives of 255 victims so far with another 440 people infected, according to Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF).

MSF, which is doubling efforts to bring the epidemic under control, confirmed on Monday that the newest areas to be affected include the city of Butembo and a number of isolated areas that are hard to reach.

This is DRC’s tenth and most serious Ebola epidemic since the virus was discovered in 1976 near the Ebola River, in what was then called Zaire.

Forty years later, despite a massive and coordinated mobilisation by the World Health Organisation (WHO), the Congolese Ministry of Health and organisations such as MSF, the deadly virus is still spreading.

The newest urban locations to be affected are the city of Butembo, as well as Kalenguta, 25 kilometres to its north, and Katwa, 30 kilometres to its east.

These places have all seen an increase in confirmed cases of Ebola, as well as some resistance from the community. For now, the number of cases in Butembo’s city centre is low, but case numbers are rising quickly in its eastern suburbs and outlying isolated districts.

“We are very concerned by the epidemiological situation in the Butembo area. We now know that this outbreak will last and that we must increase our efforts to get it under control,” Butembo MSF project coordinator John Johnson said.

“With the agreement of the authorities, we have made a strategic decision to roll out our activities close to the affected populations and to organise training of key people in the community so that we can reach patients and their relatives.”

MSF is also undertaking the decontamination of health centres and vaccinating frontline health workers to help contain the epidemic. So far, 2,000 frontline workers have received the Ebola vaccine.

– African News Agency (ANA)