page contents

Ebola outbreak in Congo causing global health emergency

Ebola outbreak in Congo causing global health emergency

While the World Health Organization (WHO) stopped short of saying borders should be closed, saying the risk of Ebola spreading outside the region was not high, the organization did declare the disease crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC).

WHO Chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said there should be no restrictions on travel or trade, and no entry screening of passengers at ports or airports outside the immediate region. The organization did say, however, that the risk to neighboring countries is “very high.” Two people died in Uganda from Ebola – a 5-year-old boy and his 50-year-grandmother, and in Goma, a priest died from the virus. Goma represents a particularly worrisome situation with over a million people living there and the city being a major transport hub on the DR Congo-Rwanda border.

PHEIC is the highest alarm level used by WHO and has only been issued 4 times before, including the Ebola epidemic that killed more than 11,000 in West Africa from 2014 to 2016. The Ebola virus causes sudden fever, intense weakness, muscle pain and a sore throat which then progresses to vomiting, diarrhea, and both internal and external bleeding, and those who die succumb to dehydration and multiple organ failure. Infection is spread through direct contact with bodily fluids, blood, feces, or vomit from someone infected through broken skin, the mouth, and nose.

The outbreak began in August 2018 and is affecting 2 provinces in DR Congo – North Kivu and Ituri. Of the more than 2,500 people infected, two-thirds of them have died. In 224 days, the number of cases reached 1,000, and in only 71 days following that, the numbers escalated to 2,000. Approximately 12 new cases are reported every single day.

A vaccine was developed during the West Africa outbreak and is 99 percent effective but is only being used by those who come in direct contact with Ebola patients. So far, 161,000 people have been vaccinated. Of those healthcare workers ministering to Ebola patients, 198 have contracted the disease since the beginning of this year of which 7 of them have died.

A large number of cases are coming as a surprise as it seems in those cases, the persons did not come into contact with anyone that had Ebola. Additionally, tracking the spread of the virus has been difficult due to distrust of healthcare workers resulting in a third of those infected not seeking medical assistance and dying within their communities. This results is the virus readily being spread to relatives and neighbors.

The WHO has made it clear that they do not have enough money to fight the outbreak. An estimated $98 million is needed just to deal with the spread of the disease from February to July. The shortfall was a staggering $54 million.