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Ebola outbreak in eastern Congo becomes second worst in history

media Medical workers disinfect the coffin of unconfirmed Ebola victim at treatment centre run by ALIMA, Beni, 13 August 2018. Photo: John Wessels/AFP

The ongoing Ebola epidemic in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo has emerged as the world’s second most serious outbreak of the haemorrhagic disease, according to the latest figures from the Congolese health ministry.

“Since the start of the epidemic, the total number of cases is 434, including 386 confirmed and 48 probable. In total, we’ve had 252 deaths (204 confirmed and 48 probable) and 138 survivors,” said the health ministry in a statement on Saturday.

The outbreak in North Kivu and Ituri provinces is the second worst outbreak of the virus, in terms of the number of cases, since Ebola was identified in 1976.

The epidemic in West Africa in 2014 hit more than 25,000 people and killed more 11,000 across Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

“The outbreak in North-Kivu has become the second largest Ebola outbreak in the world after the one in west Africa,” Oly Llunga, Congo’s health minister, tweeted.

"Yet this is the first outbreak in history where we have so many preventative and curative treatments available to protect the population against Ebola. Thanks to these treatments thousands of cases and deaths were avoided,” Llunga added.

More than 38,000 people have been vaccinated since the start of a vaccination campaign on 8 August, according to the health ministry. More than 17,000 people have been vaccinated in the city of Beni.

Ebola is spread through human-to-human transmission and can have a fatality rate of up to 90 per cent. The first symptoms of the virus include fever, fatigue, muscle pain, headache and sore throat. It is followed by more severe symptoms that can include both internal and external bleeding.

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