69 confirmed dead in Congo as Ebola outbreak spreads

69 confirmed dead in Congo as Ebola outbreak spreads

Some 21 people, including 17 civilians, were killed in an attack by rebel forces in the city of Beni, where World Health Organization has based its operations, leading to the declaration of a "Ville Morte", or period of mourning, lasting until Friday.

Apart from the worrying targeting of civilians, Dr. Salama expressed concern that in the aftermath of the latest attack, outraged communities had declared Beni a "ville morte" so that mourners can grieve, effectively suspending United Nations operations.

"We are now extremely concerned that several factors may be coming together over the next weeks and months to create a ideal storm", WHO's head of emergency response Peter Salama told a news conference in Geneva. "That resistance, driven by quite natural fear of this terrifying disease, is starting to be exploited by local politicians, and we're very concerned in the run up to elections, projected for December, that that exploitation. will gather momentum and make it very hard to root out the last cases of Ebola".

Congo's health minister, Dr. Oly Ilunga Kalenga, said that health staff had to only temporarily suspend field activities that required home visits, but otherwise "that all pillars of the response remain fully operational".

"The government and its partners in the fight will not leave the Beni region until the last case of Ebola is cured", he said.

Those on lockdown include the teams that distribute vaccinations, those who track family, friends and others who came in contact with those infected, and those who educate the public by working directly with the community.

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"Many inhabitants of the town of Beni took to the streets this Sunday to protest against the growing insecurity in the zone".

"As the days go on, if we do see unsafe burials that can't be responded to, if we do see symptomatic people that can't be accessed, we can see this situation deteriorating very quickly".

"This has the potential to spiral", Salama said.

DRC is also on edge three months ahead of planned elections to replace President Joseph Kabila.

Social media reaction to the outbreak was also adding to a "range of conspiracy theories", Dr Salama said, adding that people have been "actively fleeing" health-workers, including in places where there have been a large number of cases in recent weeks. Oicha has two confirmed cases of the virus and one probable case.

The WHO is deploying novel vaccines and treatments which have undergone preliminary tests for safety.

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