The World Health Organization says security issues could hamper efforts to contain an Ebola outbreak in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. The outbreak is in conflict-ridden North Kivu province, where some areas are too dangerous for health care workers to go.
As of Wednesday, about two weeks after the Ebola outbreak was declared in North Kivu province, there were 78 confirmed and probable cases of the viral disease, including 44 deaths.
That is nearly double the number of cases reported during a recent and separate Ebola outbreak in Equateur Province.
Health workers have fanned out in North Kivu, tracking down contacts of Ebola victims and giving them an experimental vaccine. But WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic says more cases of Ebola are expected to be seen in the coming days and weeks.
“It will get worse before it gets better,” he said. “We do not know if we are having all transmission chains identified. We expect to see more cases as a result of earlier infections and these infections are developing into illness.”
He tells VOA that health workers are able to move around freely in the towns of Mangina and Beni, which are the epicenters of the disease. It is the other parts of the province that have the WHO worried.
“There are areas just next to Mangina that are level four on the UNDSS Security scale, which means that it is an area not to go to … We still do not have a full epidemiological picture, so … the worst-case scenario is that we have these security blind spots where the epidemic could take hold and then we do not know about it,” he said.
The WHO reports it is using the same Ebola vaccine that helped contain the outbreak in Equateur province.
So far, it says nearly 500 people in North Kivu have been vaccinated, including health care workers and people who have come in contact with confirmed cases of the deadly disease.