Ebola Outbreak in the DRC

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Ebola Outbreak in the DRC

Kayli Mak, Staff Writer

An Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) that began in early August has now killed over 200 people. There have been over 300 confirmed cases of Ebola in the DRC, making this outbreak the largest in the country’s recorded history.

Ebola is an extremely contagious viral hemorrhagic fever caused by several strains of viruses in the Ebolavirus genus. It is a rare and extremely deadly disease that affects humans and nonhuman primates. The disease has a 50% to 90% mortality rate. It is spread through the trading of bodily fluids and through contact with infected animals such as bats and monkeys. The symptoms include fever, diarrhea, severe headaches, sore joints, and hemorrhaging.

Because the DRC shares borders with nine countries, the United Nations (UN) fears that the outbreak could spread to Uganda and South Sudan due to a great spike in Congolese refugees fleeing the DRC. The World Health Organization said, “the risk of the outbreak spreading to other provinces in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as well as to neighboring countries, remains very high.”

Attacks in Beni, a city in the North Kivu province and the center of the outbreak, have further hindered efforts to end the outbreak in the Congo. An armed group attacked UN peacekeepers near the Ebola Response Emergency Operations Center, near where many health workers are staying. Due to the attack, field activities were halted for a day, as the Center had to remain closed and the teams had to stay in their hotels.

The UN has also reported that a larger percentage of infants and young children are catching the disease. Babies and children are not typically known to catch Ebola, though children have been known to catch the disease when acting as caregivers for adults, who are more prone to catching it. Experts have a theory that breast milk or close contact with infected parents can transmit the disease.

The disease has been even further spread in health centers, especially with the large numbers of people visiting them to be treated for malaria. In addition, because patients opt for injectable medicine, centers were forced to reuse needles, leading to an even higher transmission rate. Not to mention, these centers lack clean water, so patients and doctors cannot wash their hands. Due to difficulties preventing the spread of Ebola as well as the struggles facing those helping the sick, the outbreak is expected to last until at least mid-2019.

Image courtesy of SPUTNIKINTERNATIONAL.COM