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The second worst Ebola outbreak in history now kills 66 percent of people who become infected

An Ebola health worker at a treatment center in Beni, Eastern Congo on April 16, 2019
Photo: AP

] Ebola's current outbreaks in the Democratic Republic of Congo have infected 1720 and killed 1 136, giving viral disease a whopping 66% mortality. And the situation means that public health experts on the ground are becoming increasingly nervous.

It is the second worst Ebola outbreak in history and while more than 110 cases were identified during the last week alone, the World Health Organization warns that "these numbers are likely to continue to increase," as health professionals address a backlog such as caused by a major disruption of health services by armed militia groups.

The worst Ebola outbreak in history was in West Africa from 2014 to 2016 and infected nearly 30,000 people, killing more than 11,000. And even though the current outbreak has not affected nearly so many people, health officials on the ground are alerting the alarm to gain more international attention.

"Whether it comes to West Africa's absolute size or not, neither of us knows, but this is huge in comparison to any other outbreak in the history of Ebola and it is still expanding," said Jeremy Farrar, head of the Wellcome Trust, the guardian. 19659006] Fortunately, the outbreak has so far been relatively limited geographically, but there is concern that an infected person could come from the DRC to nearby Uganda and make it an international crisis.The World Health Organization declined to declare the current Ebola outbreak a global health situation on April 12, largely because the viral disease had not spread outside the Democratic Republic of Congo, at that time 1 206 people had been infected and 764 people were killed.

"It is noteworthy that it has not spread more geographically but the numbers are frightening and that they going up is scary, "Farrar said. 19659006] Apart from 66 percent of mortality The latest outbreak is scary in some unique ways. For example, children are particularly hard hit, with almost one-third of the cases meeting children under the age of 18.

The good news is that health care officers on the ground are now armed with an experimental vaccine created by Merck called the V920 it has been extremely effective. But the number of vaccine doses is relatively limited, and it takes a while after receiving the jab for it to work.

The latest figures show that over 114,553 people in the region have received an Ebola vaccination, including over 28,000 health professionals. But one of the new Ebola cases diagnosed this week was a healthcare professional who had been vaccinated about 10 days earlier, which unfortunately was not enough time for the vaccine to work. The vaccine is usually effective after 10 days, a Merck representative told Gizmodo via email.

There are many other things that work against health workers on the ground right now – including widespread violence in the DRC and rapid spread of erroneous data, even among some health professionals who believe they should not be vaccinated. Some people believe that Ebola is not a genuine public health risk, while others believe that Ebola was taken into the area to only make money from local people. About 36 percent of the population in the DRC believes that Ebola does not even exist.

Dr. Richard Valery Mouzoko Kiboung, an epidemiologist from Cameroon who traveled to DRC to treat Ebola's patients, was killed last month in one of several violent attacks that regularly take place against Ebola's health care professionals. But it's not just violence aimed at workers who help Ebola to spread. Local militias are fighting against the government, and violence, even though it is not aimed at Ebola doctors and nurses, can cause treatments to be interrupted for days at a time, giving a break that allows the disease to spread while people are untreated. 19659006] Military attacks also cause large groups of people to flee, possibly helping diseases such as Ebola spread rapidly. For example, the struggle in northern Kivu and Ituri provinces has shifted thousands of people recently, with about 100,000 people displaced in northern Kivu last month.

The Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota notes that an ISIS-adapted militia group's Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) has intensified attacks significantly in recent months. The group wants to transform the DRC into what it calls California's Central African Province and has paid for attacks on Ebola treatment centers.

"The ongoing violent attacks suck fear, continue to distrust and further deepen the many challenges facing front-line health professionals," said the WHO in a statement late last week. "Without a commitment from all groups to end these attacks, it is unlikely that this outbreak [Ebola] can remain successful in northern Kivu and Ituri provinces."

The Korean Government yesterday announced it would send $ 500,000 for the Ebola efforts in the Democratic Republic of Congo, but public health leaders are very concerned that they do not get the money they need to effectively fight Ebola.

"We are entering a phase where we need major changes in the response," WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus recently said on a trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo. "Who and partners cannot address these challenges without the international community going in to fill the big financial gap."

The long and short of it? The vaccine has been amazing and it is an excellent tool in the fight against Ebola. But if the battle continues, more people will become infected. And it is much more likely that this outbreak spirals out of control.

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