Ebola Outbreak in DR Congo Is Second Worst In World History

November 30, 2018, 10:12 PM UTC

The Democratic Republic of Congo has what is now the second worst Ebola outbreak in world history.

At least 245 people have died from Ebola in the DR Congo since August 2018, and more than 425 Congolese have been infected in this current outbreak.

Ebola is an infectious virus spread through contact with bodily fluid. The disease has an extremely high mortality rate, so for individuals who contract Ebola there is a high probability that it will be fatal. (Ebola is named for a river in the DR Congo where it was first observed in 1976.)

This Ebola outbreak is particularly difficult to contain and treat due to the political instability of the DR Congo. It has been, and remains, challenging for emergency medicine professionals to reach far-flung communities in the eastern part of the nation near the Ugandan border, where the outbreak is most severe. That doesn’t even take into account the additional difficulties of working with and potentially treating people who could either become infected or those who have already contracted the virus, according to Doctors Without Borders, the international health agency that has been working in the DR Congo since the latest Ebola outbreak was declared in August.

On Thursday, Peter Salama, the deputy director general for emergency preparedness and response at the World Health Organization (WHO), confirmed the updated fatality numbers from the current outbreak and noted the agency’s ongoing collaboration with other emergency healthcare organizations.

In addition, the WHO is aiding in a parallel and overlapping public health crisis in the African nation: a malaria outbreak which further threatens the health of Congolese people as well as medical professionals trying to administer vaccinations and treatment to those already infected with Ebola.

The current Ebola-malaria treatment program is modeled on a similar overlapping Ebola-malaria outbreak in Sierra Leone in 2014, during a massive Ebola epidemic across several West African nations that was responsible for more than 11,000 deaths.