2,000 die in world’s second largest Ebola epidemic
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The number of people who have died from Ebola during a year-long outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has now climbed above 2,000.
The figure was 2,006 on 28 August, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). The number of confirmed and probable cases has passed 3,000.
The WHO said the DRC has been grappling with the world’s second largest Ebola epidemic on record since the outbreak was declared last August.
The International Federation of Red Cross (IFRC) said continued high levels of distrust mean that many Ebola patients in the DRC are delaying or avoiding going to health facilities.
“For the treatments to work, people need to trust them and the medical staff who administer them. This will take time, resources and a lot of hard work,” said Dr Emanuele Capobianco, the IFRC’s director of health and care.
The organisation said this reluctance significantly decreases the chance of survival, even with access to the newest treatments and dramatically increases the risk that the virus will spread to family members and other carers.
“We are asking people to leave the safety of their homes when they fall sick to go to an isolated cell in an Ebola treatment centres where their lives are in the hands of complete strangers,” Mr Capobianco said.
“We are asking communities to change the way they care for the sick and the dead in ways that go against their traditions. And we are doing all this in communities that have learned to distrust outsiders following decades of violence and unrest.
“This is our biggest challenge. It is a behavioural challenge, not a medical one. And unfortunately, there is no magic pill to change behaviours.”
The Red Cross said two new treatments deemed effective against Ebola are currently being administered in centres all over North Kivu and Ituri – two of the three provinces affected by the outbreak.
“FRC believes that if people understand that the treatment can save lives and can reduce the risk of transmission to their loved ones, they are more likely to seek health care early,” the organisation said.
This is Congo’s 10th Ebola outbreak, according to America’s Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. Only the 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak in West Africa has been deadlier. More than 11,300 people died then out of 28,600 who were infected.
The WHO said it continuously monitors changes to the epidemiological situation and context of the outbreak. Its last assessment, carried out on 5 August, concluded the national and regional risk levels remain very high, while global risk levels remain low.
Ebola virus disease is a rare but severe viral infection and often fatal illness in humans. The virus is transmitted to people from wild animals and spreads in the human population through human-to-human transmission.
The average fatality rate is around 50%, but case fatality rates have varied from 25-90% in past outbreaks, according to the WHO.