Congo's Ebola outbreak may not be containable, CDC director says

Robert Redfield, MD, director for the CDC, said Nov. 5 that if the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo's Ebola outbreak becomes more serious, international public health experts should consider the possibility it can't be brought under control, according to The Washington Post.

If international Ebola containment efforts fail in the Congo, it would mark the first time the virus was not stopped since 1976, when Ebola was first identified. The current Ebola outbreak is going on its fourth month, totaling 300 cases and 186 deaths as of Nov. 4.

Tom Inglesby, MD, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security in Baltimore, said if the Ebola outbreak becomes endemic in the Congo's North Kivu province, it shows "we've lost the ability to trace contacts, stop transmission chains and contain the outbreak." In this situation, Ebola could spread, which could negatively impact trade and travel.

The current Ebola outbreak is unfolding in an active war zone with several armed groups attacking health officials, government aids and civilians. Some civilians with Ebola have refused treatment, and healthcare workers are still being infected. About 60 to 80 percent of new cases do not show an epidemiological link to prior cases.

"I do think this is one of the challenges we’ll have to see, whether we're able to contain, control and end the current outbreak with the current security situation, or do we move into the idea that this becomes more of an endemic Ebola outbreak in this region, which we’ve never really confronted," Dr. Redfield told The Washington Post.

Healthcare responders may consider vaccinating broader populations in place of the current vaccination strategy, which focuses on vaccinating people who have been exposed to Ebola patients.

The World Health Organization, CDC and other international health organizations say they are worried about the current Ebola outbreak spreading to port cities like Butembo, which will only exacerbate infection transmission rates.  

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