Ebola: Death Toll In DR Congo Rises To 1,540, Says WHO

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In an update on Friday, the world health body said 2,284 people had been infected since the outbreak in the country’s Ituri and North Kivu provinces nearly 11 months ago.

“The ferocity and scorched-earth nature of the attacks suggest the assailants intended to prevent survivors from being able to return to their villages,” OHCHR spokesperson, Marta Hurtado, said.

Hurtado was quoted as saying that most of the victims belonged to the Hema community, while the remaining ones were Alur people.

She added that the attackers were reportedly from the Lendu community, echoing an earlier alert from the UN refugee agency, UNHCR.

UNHCR had earlier reported that thousands of people displaced by violence had arrived in Uganda this month, with an average of 311 people crossing the border daily, double the number for May.

Fall explained that major urban centres of Butembo and Katwa were now seeing only “sporadic” cases of infection, thanks to full access.

He, however, cautioned that in Beni, a large town in North Kivu, Ebola had claimed nine lives since Monday.

Contact tracing there and other preventative work was slowed earlier this week amid attacks by taxi drivers who were upset about the death of a colleague who sought help too late, according to him.

Turning to remote areas, Fall confirmed that the “very volatile” security situation had complicated the WHO’s work to tackle “a new hotspot” in Mabalako and Mandima.

“The outbreak started there last year and spread to other regions, so it’s important to break the vicious cycle, to contain very quickly the situation in Mabalako and Mandima, where we have more than 55 percent of the cases coming from.”

He said for the first time in the current outbreak, Ebola had also reached small forest-based villages such as Alima, where access is “more challenging”.

Fall blamed the situation on the presence of armed groups from DRC and neighbouring Uganda.

“You cannot just say, ‘I have access, I can go.’ You have to negotiate; you have to assess conscious that the risk is still important.

“This is because as you know, with Ebola, you only need one case to start spreading or one high-risk contact not followed transfers the disease,’’ he said.

Asked about the infection threat in Uganda, where three people with Ebola died earlier this month after arriving from DRC, the WHO official insisted “there has been no transmission” of the virus.

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