WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States is concerned about the Ebola outbreak in eastern Congo struck by conflicts, where there are 312 confirmed and probable cases and 191 deaths, an USID official said today.
"We are absolutely concerned about the ongoing epidemic in the Democratic Republic of the Congo," senior USID official told Reuters, who is working with the response teams. "It is not comparable to this point at the epidemic that occurred in West Africa in 2014," which spread to nine countries and involved more than 28,000 cases, he said.
But there is concern that the current epidemic has occurred in an active conflict zone in North Kivu, making it difficult for health professionals to trace and isolate cases, the official said.
"It's happening in an area of active conflict, so physical insecurity is a persistent challenge and a complication of ongoing response efforts," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
"At this point we do not see cases scattered over incredibly large geographical areas," the official said, adding that most cases occurred in the town of Beni and increasingly in nearby Butembo.
The rate of new cases has accelerated in recent weeks and neighboring Uganda has said it will start vaccinating some of its health workers against Ebola in the event of viral haemorrhagic fever spreading from the Congo.
The Committee of the World Health Organization has declared that the epidemic is not yet an international public health emergency.
The USID official said the United States has deployed more than two dozen technical experts in the country to work with the Congo Ministry of Health since the epidemic was first reported in August.
Since then, the United States has also sent experts in disasters and health from USAID and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The official refused to provide information on answers and funding due to the security threat to armed groups.
The Congo has suffered 10 outbreaks of Ebola since the virus was discovered near the homonymous river Ebola in 1976.
The official stated that the lessons learned from the Ebola crisis in West Africa were applied in the Congo, including improved treatment and isolation approaches that enable better patient care.
Reporting by Lesley Wroughton; Editing by Leslie Adler