Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.


WHO: Ebola outbreak in DRC remains contained

03 September 2014, 11:40

Kinshasa - When the deadly Ebola virus struck anew last month in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the outbreak was centred in a district sufficiently remote to be both a blessing and a bane for medical staff.

The World Health Organisation, quoting local authorities, said on Tuesday that 31 people have died since 11 August after the disease was reported around the Boende.

WHO, however, said the outbreak "remained contained", as more aid teams struggle to reach the area in Equateur province some 800km from the capital Kinshasa.

"In the DRC, logistics are a major challenge," said Jeroen Beijnberger, medical co-ordinator for Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in this country where decades of neglect have left minimal road and rail structure.

Boende is so isolated that the risk that the highly contagious disease will spread is low, unlike the situation in west Africa, where a raging epidemic has claimed more than 1,500 lives this year, according to the WHO.

Death toll

Yet Boende's very location in the heart of dense equatorial forest is an obstacle to health workers who need swiftly to quarantine fever victims showing early symptoms like blinding headaches, muscle pain, vomiting and diarrhoea.

There is no vaccine for Ebola. And since the disease is transmitted through bodily fluids including sweat and saliva, isolating patients from the rest of the community is vital, along with treatment for acute dehydration, before the onset of unstoppable bleeding and the collapse of internal organs.

The death toll varies according to the virulence of the Ebola strain, with an average of 61%, based on WHO figures. But the earlier Ebola is detected and its symptoms treated, the higher the chance of survival.

The disease was first identified in DRC, then called Zaire, in 1976 in the north near the Ebola river, which gave the virus its name. The latest outbreak is the seventh to hit the country.

For Health Minister Felix Kabange Numbi, there is no connection between the outbreak in Boende and the epidemic that started in Guinea and spread to Liberia and Sierra Leone.

"In light of the isolation of the region, there has been no contact between people" from the different parts of the continent, Numbi told AFP.

Authorities said the first victim in Boende was the wife of a hunter, whom they said had contact with infected game her husband had brought in from the rain forest.

'Difficulties of access'

While the health minister declared the Boende outbreak "contained", he said officials were closely monitoring developments, with more medical staff trying to get in to back up personnel already on the ground.

"Given the difficulties of access to the zone," transporting medical teams and their equipment "is a challenge", said Eugene Kabambi, WHO communications officer in Kinshasa.

Air transport laid on by the large UN mission in the DRC, Monusco - a multinational military, police and civilian force first deployed during a regional war fought on DRC soil - "no longer even flies to Boende," Kabambi said.

Health personnel were forced "to negotiate with the small carriers", he added, in a nation where flying and inland boat travel can be as dangerous as they are indispensable.

And from Boende's airfield, the route is a bumpy dirt track through thick jungle over several streams, where crossing fast-flowing water in the ubiquitous dugout canoes can be a perilous adventure, Kabambi said.

Some MSF and WHO staff have been working in the Boende region with specialised epidemiologists since mid-August. MSF on Monday told AFP that reinforcements had reached the area and were setting up an Ebola clinic. WHO expected to have more personnel arrive this week.

Successive outbreaks

Last week, Monusco announced that the United Nations has released $1.5 million (1.3 million euros) to help the Kinshasa government combat the outbreak, with the prospect of doubling that sum.

"The positive point in the DRC is that the country is not confronted with its first Ebola outbreak," Beijnberger said.

"The situation is different to that in west Africa, the virus isn't present in the big towns and urban centres," in contrast to the Nigerian metroplis of Lagos, he added.

While it is difficult to reach the affected area, it is just as hard to leave it, which helps to prevent the spread of Ebola and led the authorities to declare a quarantine zone of about 100 square kilometres around Boende.

Kabambi said that Congolese authorities had learnt much from successive outbreaks of Ebola.

"Surveillance of epidemics is strongly reinforced" and has led to swift action, Kabambi said, adding that in almost four decades, "there has never been a large town or big urban centre affected in the country."



Read News24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Read more from our Users

Submitted by
Wilon Ochieng
Labour Party to dump both Jubilee...

The Labour Party of Kenya is likely to avoid supportoing both the CORD and Jubilee factions during the 2017 General Elections. Read more...

Submitted by
William Korir
Ukambani MP quits Jubilee, to run...

An Ukambani MP has quit the Jubilee Party, citing voter apathy as his reason behind leaving the ruling coalition. Read more...

Submitted by
Victor Tinto
Government launches probe into Po...

The government has launched an inquiry into the circumstances that could have led to two National Police Service helicopter accidents in August and September this year. Read more...

Submitted by
Wilwon Ochieng
Deputy Governor's ally found with...

The EACC has recovered KES 2 million in fake currency from a close ally of Deputy Governor for Tharaka Nithi Eliud Mati. Read more...

Submitted by
William Korir
Mudavadi given permission to join...

Musalia Mudavadi has been ghranted permission by his party to join the CORD Coalition. Read more...

Submitted by
Victor Tinto
EACC officers raid Deputy Governo...

EACC officers raided the home of a Deputy Governor as theft case continues in court. Read more...