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29 May 2018, 08:04 | Melissa Porter
Fear, suspicion hampering DRC’s fight against Ebola, reports say
Latest data from health authorities in the DRC, indicates a total of 52 cases of Ebola in the north-west of the country; 31 of these are confirmed, 13 are probable and eight are suspect.
Efforts to contain the spread of the deadly virus have been hampered by poor road conditions and the lack of other logistical means. The statement received from the health ministry also said that the province also has four new suspected cases of Ebola.
Congolese Health Minister Oly Ilunga Kalenga visited Bikoro and Iboko on Saturday to inspect the deployment of health workers who will be tracing people who have been in contact with Ebola cases and inoculating them with a new experimental vaccine. Four confirmed Ebola deaths have taken place in the Iboko health zone, according to Congo's health ministry.
Health officials say they face a huge significant mistrust especially as many place more faith in clerics in white collars rather than doctors in white coats. The other patient was taken home, where he died hours later, leaving health officials scrambling to locate their contacts across the city of 1.5 million people.
Of the 10 confirmed Ebola deaths, five have occurred in Bikoro, two in Iboko and three in the Wangata area of Mbandaka.
Representatives of the World Health Organization and UNICEF accompanied the health minister. Complicating factors include its spread to a major city, the fact that health workers have been infected and the existence of three or four "separate epicenters" that make finding and monitoring contacts of infected people more hard.
"I am personally committed to ensuring that we do everything we can to stop this outbreak as soon as possible".
Identifying contacts is crucial for stopping the spread of the disease.
Ebola has broken out nine times since 1976 and is the origin of hemorrhagic fever.
Since the plan was written, the disease has spread to the provincial capital Mbandaka, with an estimated population of 1.5 million people, and World Health Organization has more than doubled its response budget, to $56 million from an initial $26 million. Symptoms of Ebola include vomiting, fever, muscle pain, diarrhea, and external or internal bleeding.
The plan also sets out targets for the disease response, including that 100 percent of new cases should come from known contacts and none of the cases should be health care workers.
When Ebola hit the West African countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone in 2013 and 2014, killing more than 11,000 people, suspicion of health workers in their spacesuit-like protective gear also prompted patients to flee, helping accelerate the disease's spread.