WHO: Insecure Ebola hot spots pose resurgence risk elsewhere

Oct. 18, 2019

In its recent analysis of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) Ebola outbreak, the World Health Organization (WHO) said another period of low case numbers is promising, but it worries that the remaining hot spots are in insecure areas that could seed new infections to other health zones where transmission has ended.

The DRC confirmed three new cases, putting the overall outbreak total at 3,227, according to the WHO's online Ebola dashboard.

On Oct. 18 the WHO's Ebola emergency committee will meet to discuss the latest developments and whether the situation still warrants a public health emergency of international concern under the International Health Regulations.

The WHO’s recent situation report said most of the newly confirmed cases have occurred in a concentrated area that has limited access and insecurity problems, which pose challenges for outbreak responders. It adds that the risk of resurgence is very high in those conditions, as is the risk of transmission from the hot spots to other areas.

Underscoring the concerns, the WHO said that, over the past week, several people who tested positive for Ebola sought care in health zones that no longer have Ebola transmission, such as Beni.

Another worry is the plummeting proportion of confirmed cases who were listed as contacts, which recently dropped from 57% to 13%, the lowest level since the middle of January, the WHO said. Over the past week, most cases had links to the Biakato Mines health area in Mandima—which is seeing a resurgence of cases—with the other illnesses linked to the Mambasa health zone.

Insecure environments in both of the health zones can diminish response activities needed to disrupt transmission chains, such as contact tracing, safe and dignified burials, house decontamination and vaccination, according to the WHO.

Aside from the three new cases, the WHO's online Ebola dashboard shows that health officials are still investigating 529 suspected Ebola cases.

Three more people died from their Ebola infections, lifting the fatality count to 2,153. The DRC's Ebola technical committee (CMRE) said that, of three new deaths reported, none occurred in community settings, a factor known to raise the risk of transmission.

The Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy has the release.