Ebola cases exceed 600 in Congo as violence persists

The ongoing Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo has surpassed 600 cases, according to a Jan. 1 update from the Congo's Ministry of Health.

Health officials reported 602 Ebola cases as of Dec. 31, 554 of which are confirmed. An additional 54 cases are still under investigation. There are also 366 confirmed and probable deaths linked to the outbreak, which started in August. Another 205 Ebola patients have recovered from the virus.

Health workers were forced to stop Ebola response efforts Dec. 27 after election protestors vandalized a compound in the city of Beni, according to CNN. The teams were unable to administer vaccinations, perform contact tracing or follow up on alerts of potential new cases, according to WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD.

"We have reached a critical point in the Ebola response. After an intensification of field activities, we were seeing hopeful signs in many areas, including a recent decrease in cases in Beni," he said in a Dec. 28 statement. "These gains could be lost if we suffer a period of prolonged insecurity, resulting in increased transmission. That would be a tragedy for the local population, who have already suffered too much."

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