Two-Month-Old Congo Ebola Outbreak Already Surpasses 2018’s Cases

A man is getting inoculated with an Ebola vaccine on November 22, 2019 in Goma. (Photo by PAMELA TULIZO / AFP) (Photo by PAMELA TULIZO/AFP via Getty Images)
PAMELA TULIZO/AFP via Getty Images

In the six weeks since it began on June 1, the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s (DRC) latest Ebola outbreak in Equateur province has already reached 56 cases, surpassing the total number of cases recorded during the province’s last outbreak of the deadly disease that began two years ago, the World Health Organization (W.H.O.) reported on Thursday.

The W.H.O. expressed “concern” Thursday over the Ebola outbreak in the DRC’s northwestern Equateur province, which comes amid the country’s ongoing Chinese coronavirus epidemic.

“The outbreak was declared on June 1 and there have been 56 cases … surpassing the total number [54] recorded during the province’s last Ebola outbreak, two years ago,” the W.H.O. said.

“Responding to Ebola in the midst of the ongoing COVID-19 [Chinese coronavirus] pandemic is complex, but we must not let [it] distract us from tackling other pressing health threats,” W.H.O. Regional Director for Africa Matshidiso Moeti said on Thursday.

“The current Ebola outbreak is running into headwinds because cases are scattered across remote areas in dense rain forests. This makes for a costly response as ensuring that responders and supplies reach affected populations is extremely challenging.”

The W.H.O. said it was battling the country’s latest Ebola outbreak amid “funding shortfalls” and warned that it may soon run out of money to combat the rising number of cases.

“So far [the] W.H.O. has mobilized $ 1.75 million which will last only a few more weeks,” the U.N. health agency said. “Additional support is needed to rapidly scale up the efforts by W.H.O., the DRC health authorities, and partners to ensure all the affected communities receive key services including health education and community engagement, vaccination, testing, contact tracing, and treatment.”

Despite its diminished funding, the health body acknowledged that it has appreciably increased the number of people vaccinated against Ebola during this latest outbreak.

“Significant achievements have been made since the outbreak began. In six weeks, more than 12,000 people have been vaccinated. During the 2018 outbreak in Equateur, it took two weeks to start vaccinations. This time around vaccinations started within four days of the outbreak being declared,” the W.H.O. said.

The DRC’s latest Ebola outbreak is its 11th overall. On June 25, the global health community declared the DRC’s tenth Ebola outbreak officially over after battling the epidemic for nearly two years. It took place “in the restive eastern part of the country” and “killed 2,280 people, making it the world’s second-deadliest Ebola outbreak,” according to the report.

On Friday, the DRC reported 8,239 infections and 193 deaths from the Chinese coronavirus. In recent months, the DRC’s beleaguered healthcare system — already failing before the pandemic — has struggled under the weight of both the coronavirus epidemic and persistent Ebola outbreaks.

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