As DR Congo's Ebola Death Toll Hits 35, a Look at Wildfire Spread of Deadly Virus

As DR Congo's Ebola Death Toll Hits 35, a Look at Wildfire Spread of Deadly Virus

As West Africa teeters on the brink of disaster, the Ebola outbreak threatening to destabilize a region has begun to threaten other parts of the country. The World Health Organization announced today that an unrelated Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo has killed 35 people since it began, out of more than 60 diagnosed with the disease.

PBS notes the Democratic Republic of Congo, home to the first known Ebola outbreak, recently began fighting a battle of its own against the virus. The outbreak in that nation is unrelated to the one occurring in West Africa, whose Patient Zero is believed to be a child from rural Guinea. Much like the situation in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, however, a rapid spread of Ebola could strongly challenge the resilience of Congo’s medical infrastructure.

The news that Congo might be facing a struggle as difficult as that in West Africa follows reports that incidents elsewhere in Africa could be surfacing. In Nigeria, a South African woman is being tested for the disease after landing in Lagos, the same airport from which Nigeria’s first Ebola patient, Patrick Sawyer, arrived from Liberia. The woman is said to have spent time in Guinea and Liberia before flying from Morocco to Lagos; test results for her have not yet arrived, but she is being kept in isolation. Unlike other suspected cases, the South African woman admitted to suffering from both diarrhea and vomiting, both Ebola symptoms. 

Further distribution across the African continent could prove devastating to many of its nations, but public health officials warn that, with the current level of effort the international community is putting into helping impoverished west African countries, there is little hope to contain the threat. The World Health Organization has warned that the outbreak has exhibited an “exponential increase” within the past 21 days, and it is believed that more than 350 mutations of the virus are currently circulating through the region.

PBS has taken on the prodigious task of documenting the key Ebola cases that have triggered such a widespread threat to the stability of the region. Using an interactive map of West Africa to narrate the spread of the disease, it begins with the cause of a Guinean boy in the village of Meliandou and follows cases out of rural Guinea to Conakry, Freetown, Monrovia, and Lagos.

The map highlights not just cases of Ebola spreading through the region, but particularly violent episodes of unrest, such as a protest in Sierra Leone against medical personnel triggered by a nurse claiming that Ebola was invented to cover up “cannibalistic” rituals.

The map also highlights a case of Ebola in Dakar, Senegal, the first of its kind in the nation. The patient, a 21-year-old student, brought the virus into the country from Guinea and has since recovered. Senegal continues to monitor 67 people they believe had contact with the student while he was contagious, but no other cases have been confirmed.

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