CDC Ebola experts removed from Congo outbreak zone due to security threats

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The CDC withdrew its Ebola experts from an outbreak zone in the Democratic Republic of the Congo due to security concerns, according to STAT.

Here are three things to know:

1. The U.S. Department of State has prohibited the experts and other federal employees from traveling to the Congo to participate in on-the-ground aid, forcing these health advisors to aid the Congo's health ministry from thousands of miles away. Other CDC employees are helping neighboring countries near the Congo's eastern border strengthen their health operations and prepare prevention efforts in case the virus spreads.

"CDC has responded to nearly two dozen filovirus outbreaks in its history and has people who've been working on these issues for 30 years," Tom Inglesby, MD, director of the Center for Health Security at the Baltimore-based Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health told STAT. "It doesn't make sense to have those people hundreds or thousands of miles away from where the disease is actually spreading."

2. The decision to withdraw the CDC experts stemmed from increasing violence as armed rebel groups fight against governmental troops in the area. The city of Beni, which is the current epicenter of the Ebola outbreak, is "effectively a war zone," according to STAT.

"This outbreak is occurring in a highly insecure environment, which complicates public health response activities," an anonymous state department official told the publication.

3. Additional obstacles, such as community mistrust and vaccine refusal have also hindered response and containment efforts. The World Health Organization thinks the Ebola outbreak may last 3 to 4 months due to these challenges. There have been 211 confirmed and probable Ebola cases in the Congo since the outbreak began Aug. 1, including 137 deaths.

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