Congo's Ebola outbreak may be on brink of catastrophe, health experts warn

Health experts warn that the Democratic Republic of Congo's Ebola outbreak may be on the brink of disaster amid continued violence and community resistance, reports STAT.

The country is reporting double-digit increases in Ebola cases daily, with the outbreak total hitting 1,572 confirmed and probable cases as of May 5. Jeremy Farrar, PhD, director of the Wellcome Trust, called these figures "horrifying," adding that the outbreak is "on a knife edge."

After numerous attacks on Ebola treatment centers, some organizations have pulled out non-Congolese outbreak responders from Butembo and Katwa, the current outbreak hotspots. Armed guards now stand outside many Ebola treatment centers to protect remaining workers, but this often discourages locals from seeking care.

"We are truly in uncharted Ebola-control territory," Michael Osterholm, PhD, director of the University of Minnesota's Center for Infectious Diseases Research and Policy in Minneapolis, told STAT. "Even in the 2014-15 [Ebola] epidemic in West Africa, once public health programs and vaccination efforts were put into place, it brought about a rather rapid reduction of cases. We've never encountered a situation where a geographic region becomes almost completely impossible to work in because of insecurity."

These unprecedented factors mean the outbreak could spiral out of control very easily, according to Dr. Farrar. He predicted daily case counts could hit 30 to 40 confirmed infections a day if health officials do not find a way to change the outbreak's current trajectory.

To view STAT's full article, click here.

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