WHO says 426 people have been infected, with no end in sight.
JOHANNESBURG — The World Health Organization says Congo’s deadly Ebola outbreak is now the second largest in history, behind the devastating West Africa outbreak that killed thousands a few years ago.
WHO emergencies chief Dr. Peter Salama late Thursday called it “a sad toll” as Congo’s health ministry announced the number of cases has reached 426. That includes 379 confirmed and 47 probable cases, with 242 deaths.
Attacks by rebel groups and open hostility by some wary locals have posed serious challenges that Ebola workers say they have never faced before. Many venture out on critical virus containment work only with the accompaniment of U.N. peacekeepers while gunfire echoes daily.
The West Africa Ebola outbreak killed more than 11,000 people from 2014 to 2016. An outbreak in 2000 in Uganda sickened 425 people and killed 224 of them and it was, until now, the second-worst outbreak.
Day by day, reports by health organizations note one new difficulty after another for the Ebola outbreak in Congo, even as their work sets milestones that have given new hope in the fight against one of the world’s most notorious diseases.
More than 37,000 people have received Ebola vaccinations, and Congo has begun the first-ever trial to test the effectiveness and safety of four experimental Ebola drugs. And yet the risk of Ebola spreading in so-called “red zones” — areas that are virtually
inaccessible because of the threat of rebel groups — is a major concern in containing this outbreak.
This is the first time this turbulent part of northeastern Congo has had an Ebola outbreak. Congo’s health ministry has carried vivid accounts of residents, spurred by rumors, who have been trying to stop safe burial practices that halt the spread of Ebola from victims to relatives and friends.