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Ebola death toll climbs

Health authorities are fighting to contain an Ebola outbreak that has killed dozens, with many more suspected of being infected with the deadly virus. Reports indicate that so far 31 people in the north-east of the Democratic Republic of Congo have died from the disease, while a further 65 people are suspected of being infected and another 108 are under surveillance.

30 Sep 2012

Health authorities are fighting to contain an Ebola outbreak that has killed dozens, with many more suspected of being infected with the deadly virus.

Reports indicate that so far 31 people in the north-east of the Democratic Republic of Congo have died from the disease, while a further 65 people are suspected of being infected and another 108 are under surveillance.

While the World Health Organisation (WHO) said the outbreak was not yet out of control, spokesman Eugene Kabambi told Reuters the situation was grave.

“If nothing is done now, the disease will reach other places, and even major town will be threatened,” Mr Kabambi said.

Experts from the WHO, Medicins Sans Frontieres, the Red Cross and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are working urgently with local health authorities to try and contain the latest outbreak, which developed less than a month after an unrelated strain of the disease claimed 17 lives in Uganda.

Ebola was first identified in 1976, and is a haemorrhagic fever that can spread rapidly through direct contact with the blood, body fluids and even clothes of an infected person.

The infection, which has killed hundreds of people, is fatal in up to 90 per cent of cases, and there is no known cure.

Congo has been the site of several outbreaks of the deadly disease, including in 2009 when 15 people died from the illness.

The last major outbreak was in early 2009 when 14 people in Congo were killed.

Health workers are concerned that the practice of washing and displaying corpses before burial is helping to spread the virus, and MSF, along with the WHO and Congo’s health ministry have been conducting education campaigns warning of the dangers posed by this ritual.

The WHO has deployed epidemiologists to the area to trace the origins of the latest outbreak and identify all possible chains of its transmission.

The United Nations has called for contributions to a $1.9 million fund to help support efforts to contain the disease, which has infected at least 18 health workers.

AR


Published: 30 Sep 2012