Humanitarian workers attacked in Congo as Ebola outbreak hits 644 cases

Ebola cases are rising in the Democratic Republic of Congo amid political instability and community unrest, according to a Jan. 14 update from the University of Minnesota's Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy in Minneapolis.

Four things to know:

1. Health officials have reported 19 new Ebola cases since Jan. 11, with all but one case confirmed. Most of the cases occurred in the city of Katwa, one of the outbreak's latest hot spots.

2. The new infections bring the outbreak's total case count to 644 cases, 595 of which are confirmed. There have also been 347 confirmed and 49 probable deaths linked to the outbreak. An additional 121 cases are still under investigation, while 237 people have recovered.

3. On Jan. 11, locals attacked humanitarian workers who were in the city of Marabo to build an Ebola isolation center. Marabo residents reportedly opposed construction of the isolation center because they thought it would bring disease into the community, according to a United Nations news report cited by CIDRAP.

4. The country's recent election results have also led to public distrust. Health officials fear election protests in outbreak areas could hinder containment efforts.

"The worst-case scenario is that political instability remains, mistrust grows ... and then there's nothing to stop the epidemic getting embedded into a big urban center and taking off as it did in West Africa," Jeremy Farrar, PhD, an infectious disease expert who recently visited the Congo, told Reuters.

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