Congo ministry says Ebola outbreak worst in nation's history

Two medical staff walk with a man in the Ebola treatment area of Bunia

Two medical staff walk with a man in the Ebola treatment area of Bunia

Since the outbreak began in August, there have been 308 cases and 191 deaths, about half of which have been in Beni, which has a population of around 800,000.

"Two of our colleagues in the Rapid Response Medical Unit even lost their lives in an attack", he added.

United Nations peacekeepers in the country have called on armed groups not to hinder medical workers fighting the disease.

However, health minister Oly Ilunga said armed rebels were continuing to harass medical teams.

New measures taken to combat an Ebola outbreak in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo have had a "positive impact", but the virus remains unsafe and unpredictable, the World Health Organization and United Nations said Thursday. The first struck in 1976.

The Ebola virus is contagious and easily spread through small amounts of bodily fluid.

Armed groups vying for control of Congo's mineral-rich east have staged regular attacks in Congo's Ituri and North Kivu provinces, complicating the response by health officials who are also meeting community resistance.

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With over 300 cases the epidemic also ranks as third worst in the history of the continent, following the 2013-2016 outbreak in West Africa where over 28,000 cases were confirmed and an outbreak in Uganda in 2000 involving 425 cases.

Last week, the World Health Organization's director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said the lack of security was posing the greatest challenge in countering the current epidemic.

"When there is an attack, the operation [vaccinations] actually freezes".

"And one is catching up on the backload".

After decades of conflict, Ebola response teams have faced misinformation and mistrust from some local populations who are reluctant to allow vaccination programmes or follow rules for contact tracing and safe burials.

The World Health Organization's committee has said that the outbreak did not yet constitute a public health emergency of worldwide concern.

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