WHO warns of 'perfect storm' for Ebola in eastern Congo

Perfect storm of risks threatens DRC Ebola response WHO

"We are now extremely concerned that several factors may be coming together in the next weeks or months to create a potentially ideal storm", the Australian epidemiologist added.

The fighting is making it harder for aid workers to reach people they need to test or treat for Ebola, or to vaccinate them, Salama said. "A ideal storm of active conflict, limiting our ability to access civilians, distress by segments of the community, already traumatized by decades of conflict and of murder".

Attacks by armed opposition groups have increased in severity and frequency, especially those attributed to the Alliance of Democratic Forces, most dramatically an attack that killed 21 in the city of Beni, where WHO's operation is based.

Various militant and rebel groups have been staging attacks in the area for years but they've stepped up the fighting in recent weeks, making it even harder than it already was to fight the two-month-old outbreak.

The city has declared a "ville morte", a period of mourning until at least Friday, obliging World Health Organization to suspend its operations. "Our operations are in effect suspended", he added.

On average, Ebola kills about half of those infected, but case fatality rates in individual outbreaks have varied from 25% to 90%.

This means that teams involved in contact tracing and vaccination are not able to do their work in affected zones.

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The health ministry says 100 people have died in the current outbreak in the east of the country.

"As the days go on, if we do see unsafe burials that can't be responded to, if we do see symptomatic people that can't be accessed, we can see this situation deteriorating very quickly".

Perhaps the most hard aspect of an Ebola outbreak to control is misinformation.

The latest violence, which sparked local anger, comes just three months before the Democratic Republic of Congo holds a fractious election to choose a successor to Joseph Kabila, the country's deeply-contested president. Rwanda, South Sudan and Burundi also border the region.

At the time, the WHO's Peter Salama described it as a "dreaded" scenario.

Congo is concurrently experiencing a long-term humanitarian crisis that includes intermittent armed conflict, according to WHO, the United Nations' public health division.


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