Ebola cases on the rise in DR Congo — Red Cross

A health worker sprays disinfectant on his colleague after working at an Ebola treatment center in Beni eastern Congo

A health worker sprays disinfectant on his colleague after working at an Ebola treatment center in Beni eastern Congo

Despite a week with record cases, the World Health Organization's (WHO's) emergency committee today agreed for a second time that the ongoing Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)-history's second largest-does not constitute a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC).

With multiple rebel groups active in the region, wary communities sometimes resisting health workers and a heavily travelled border nearby, the risk of regional spread is deemed "very high", WHO says.

It had not spread across borders to Uganda, Rwanda or South Sudan, but neighboring countries should shore up their preparedness, the experts said.

Congo's health ministry on Thursday reported 1,206 confirmed and probable cases, including 764 deaths, since the outbreak was declared on August 1.

Newport said 75% of new Ebola cases have no obvious link to previous patients, meaning that officials have lost track of where the virus is spreading. It causes hemorrhagic fever with severe vomiting, diarrhoea and bleeding. Symptoms can start to occur between two and 21 days from infection, according to WHO.

Ebola is a serious often-fatal disease that is transmitted to people from wild animals and spreads from human to human through the bodily fluids of people who exhibit symptoms.

Dr. Emanuele Capobianco, the Director of Health and Care explains Congo's Ebola situation.

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Up to the end of March, more than 320 patients had recovered and been discharged from treatment centres, according to the Government's health ministry. While there is no licensed treatment for Ebola, receiving early care such as rehydration and treatment of other symptoms helps to improve survival chances. Additionally, many local people try to avoid health workers out of fear and/or distrust. Attacks have led to a traumatized population that can be wary of outsiders.

He also explained that the record-breaking week still ongoing in the DRC was partly because World Health Organization responders were allowed more access to communities and transmission chains in hot spots, such as Katwa, which means they were able to identify and reach more patients.

The WHO emergency panel first decided not to declare the outbreak a PHEIC in October 2018. The numbers spiked this week, with 20 new cases on Wednesday alone.

It's hard to say.

The Emergency Committee recommended that cross-border collaboration be strengthened, including through the timely sharing of Ebola data and alerts; community engagement, and awareness raising. As complications keep appearing, the time frame is pushed back.

Tariq Riebl, who is based in a current Ebola hot spot, Butembo, for the International Rescue Committee, said a major obstacle to stopping the outbreak is that officials are simply unaware of how many Ebola cases there are.

Rebecca Katz, a global health security expert at Georgetown University, in a statement called WHO's decision disappointing, saying the United Nations agency and its experts were "taking too narrow of an interpretation" of what constitutes an worldwide emergency.

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