DRC: Doctor stricken with Ebola in rebel stronghold

WHO says 97 people believed to have contact with the infected physician in an area dominated by a dangerous rebel group.

DRC soldiers
DRC soldiers patrol against Allied Democratic Forces rebels [Kenny Katombe/Reuters]

A doctor in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has been hospitalised with the deadly Ebola virus after coming into contact with nearly 100 people.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday investigating the infection and its possible spread to 97 people in contact with the physician would be difficult because the area was entirely surrounded by rebels.

Since the outbreak erupted in DRC on August 1, 103 confirmed and probable cases of Ebola have been identified in North Kivu and Ituri provinces, including 63 deaths, the health ministry said.

“It is the first time we have a confirmed case and contacts in an area of high insecurity,” said Dr Peter Salama, WHO’s deputy director-general for emergency preparedness and response.

“It is really the problem we were anticipating and at same time dreading,” he told a news briefing.

WHO says DRC conflict hindering push to stem Ebola outbreak

Salama said the Ebola infection occurred in the eastern town of Oicha, 50km from DRC’s border with Uganda.

‘Pivotal moment’

The area was surrounded by fighters from the Allied Democratic Forces, who he said posed “extremely serious security concerns”.

WHO and health experts reached Oicha with an armed escort by MONUSCO troops this week, Salama said. 

The DRC’s military launched an offensive against the armed group in January after an attack on Tanzanian UN peacekeepers that killed 15 soldiers.

“We are at quite a pivotal moment in this outbreak in terms of the evolution of the outbreak epidemiologically and in terms of the response,” said Salama.

Ebola is a virus-caused hemorrhagic fever that in extreme cases causes fatal bleeding from internal organs, the mouth, eyes or ears.

Ebola explainer May 20 2018 [Al Jazeera]
Ebola explainer May 20 2018 [Al Jazeera]
Source: News Agencies