The Democratic Republic of Congo has built a reputation for its quick containment of Ebola virus outbreaks since the virus was first discovered there in 1976. However, the current outbreak—its tenth—is proving to be the worst.
Nearly 200 people have been killed by the hemorrhagic fever since the outbreak was first confirmed in August. The 319 confirmed and probable cases now identified by the country’s health ministry is the highest number of cases ever recorded during an Ebola outbreak in DR Congo since the first in 1976 when 318 cases were identified.
Containing the current outbreak has been more difficult this time because of its location. The first cases were found in North Kivu, in DR Congo’s volatile northeastern region which is home to several armed groups. Health workers have been unable to move freely to track, screen and vaccinate locals as quickly as necessary to stop the pace of the virus’ spread.
“When there is an attack, the operation actually freezes. So we hold the operation. And when the operation stops, the virus gets advantage,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, World Health Organization’s director-general, said last week.
The restriction of health workers’ movement is proving a significant challenge for a country that has become proficient at identifying and containing outbreaks in recent years given growing local expertise at dealing with outbreaks. Over the last decade, no Ebola outbreak has recorded more than 70 cases.