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The last Ebola outbreak has killed more than 500 people, including almost 100 children



After working at an Ebola treatment center in Beni in eastern Congo, a health worker is sprayed with disinfectant.
Image: Al-Hadji Kudra Maliro (AP)

The latest update on the current outbreak of Ebola devastation in Africa shows that the situation continues to worsen. Last weekend, the Ministry of Health of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) reported that, since February 10, there have been 811 confirmed or probable cases of the viral disease since August 2018. Of these cases, 510 people have died, including around 100 children.

So far, the outbreak is centered in the northeast of the DRC, in the regions of North Kivu and Ituri. It seemed on the verge of extinction last fall, but a second wave of cases dispelled that hope, and the number of new victims increased again in January. Between January 15 and February 3, the World Health Organization reported last week that there were only 123 confirmed cases. The current figure represents the second largest outbreak of Ebola in recorded history, fortunately still well behind the 2014-2016 outbreak in West Africa that sickened nearly 30,000 people and killed more than 11,000.

On Sunday, the non-profit organization Save the Children highlighted the young victims of the current outbreak. According to the organization, 97 children have been killed so far, most of them under the age of five.

"We are at a crossroads," Heather Kerr, country director of Save the Children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, said in a statement. "If we do not take urgent measures to contain this, the outbreak could last another six months, if not the entire year." The Democratic Republic of the Congo is a country that suffers violence, conflicts and a crisis of extreme hunger: about 4.6 million. Children suffer from acute malnutrition The main concerns for many people are safety and making sure they have enough to eat, but Ebola also has to be a priority. "

Violence and conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo have constantly hampered the efforts of health workers to track potential victims, isolate those infected and vaccinate people in close contact. The United States has also blamed the elimination of Ebola experts in the area for violence, although experts and organizations elsewhere have harshly criticized the country for doing so. Many of the American scientists drawn from the area, according to critics, have decades of experience in the management of previous Ebola outbreaks.

Cultural barriers and misconceptions about the disease have also made it difficult to stop the outbreak.

"People have interrupted funerals because they did not believe that the deceased had succumbed to the virus, and humanitarian workers were threatened because they were believed to have spread Ebola," Kerr said. "We have to scale up our efforts to reach the vocal leaders of young people and the community to build trust and help us change this current ".

However, there have been some hopeful signs.

According to the Ministry of Health of the Democratic Republic of Congo, about 80,000 people have been vaccinated with an experimental vaccine manufactured by Merck. And although official data on vaccine efficacy are not yet available, WHO experts believe it has been highly effective (90 percent or more). WHO also hopes that the vaccine supply currently available will be sufficient to survive the outbreak. So far, the fear that Ebola will spread to neighboring countries such as Uganda has not been fulfilled either.

In the USA USA, Two people were being monitored for possible exposure to Ebola in hospitals in Pennsylvania and Nebraska, including a health worker who provided assistance in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Both patients have been discharged and sent home.

[Health Ministry of the DRC, Save The Children]

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