More than 1,500 people have died in a nearly 10-month-old outbreak of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the DRC Health Ministry is quoted in The Citizen as saying. As of Sunday, 1,506 people have died out of 2,239 recorded cases, it said.
Earlier this month, the virus claimed two lives in neighbouring Uganda among a family who had travelled to the DRC. The report says nearly 141,000 people have been vaccinated in the affected eastern DRC provinces of Ituri and North Kivu, the epicentre of the outbreak.
The current outbreak in the DRC is the worst on record after an epidemic that struck mainly in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone between 2014-2016, killing more than 11,300 people. And, the report says, chronic violence and militia activity in Ituri and North Kivu as well as hostility to medical teams among locals have hampered the response.
On Monday, a crowd of people opposed to the burial of two Ebola victims in the Beni area burnt the vehicle of a health team, local police chief Colonel Safari Kazingufu is quoted in the report as saying. He said a member of the medical team had been injured in the attack and taken to hospital.
The UN in May nominated an emergency coordinator to deal with the crisis. However, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said this month the outbreak currently did not represent a global threat.
Although South Africa has not yet put in place travel restrictions to Uganda or Kenya following a recent Ebola scare, a Sunday Independent report quotes authorities as saying they remain on high alert.
This month, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) issued an alert saying the risk of Ebola spreading to South Africa from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda remained low. The NICD said despite the low risk, “planning to support timely detection and response to the importation of a case continues”.
The NICD’s Professor Lucille Bloomberg said the chances of Ebola spreading to South Africa from the DRC were low. “South Africa has many years of experience of diagnosing and successfully managing cases and outbreaks of other viral haemorrhagic fevers such as Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever. “During the very large 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak in multiple countries in West Africa, there were no cases of Ebola in South Africa.”
Bloomberg said in the report that this was due to training to recognise Ebola cases. “There was a very sensitive and active system to identify persons with fever who had travelled to possible risk areas and test those for Ebola, indicating a cautious but very sensitive approach. “For the majority of persons, no risk of Ebola could be identified and malaria was confirmed quite rapidly,” Bloomberg said.