The grim statistics of the current Ebola outbreak in north-western Congo are, frankly, horrifying to those who know the disease, and know the area. The Telegraph reports:
According to the DRC Ministry of Health, 1,008 people have died from the deadly virus, including 942 confirmed deaths and 66 probable. There have been 1,529 cases since the outbreak began last August - less than a third of those infected have survived.
. . .
On Tuesday, the DRC's Ministry of Health confirmed that 26 people had died from the virus – the highest death toll on a single day. And with 126 new infections reported, this week has seen more cases than any other since the epidemic was confirmed in North Kivu last August.
April has also been the worst month of the outbreak to date, with 406 cases reported. This month alone would constitute the third-largest outbreak in history, according to the US Centre for Disease control and Protection.
“The numbers are nothing short of terrifying, with children accounting for a third of all diagnosed cases and more deaths than any other Ebola outbreak in history, bar the West Africa epidemic,” said Dr Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust.
“But there can be no doubt that the situation is escalating towards those terrible levels.”
There are also concerns that the epidemic might have crossed international lines, with Uganda on high alert following the death of a potential Ebola patient. The current outbreak is close to the country’s border, which hundreds of people cross every week.
. . .
Mistrust has hindered efforts to rapidly contain the highly contagious disease, with a quarter of people in the region believing that the Ebola virus does not exist. Others have accused the authorities of fabricating the outbreak for political gain – voters in the region were not able to partake in national elections in February due to the crisis.
Violence is also rife. The area surrounding Butembo has been at the centre of conflict for more than two decades, and over one hundred armed groups are in operation in the region.
There have been 119 separate attacks recorded against Ebola workers or operations since January, according to the WHO. Health workers have been wounded or killed in [some] of these 85 incidents.
“Every time there is a security incident, essential response activities are suspended for an indefinite period, giving time and space for the virus to further spread in the community,” Dr. Oly Ilunga, the DRC's Minister of Health, told The Telegraph.
The recent spike in cases is in part because efforts to control Ebola were temporarily halted following a string of attacks on treatment centres, threats against health workers and the murder of a WHO epidemiologist.
There's more at the link.
Look at the spike in reported cases since April, in the graph above. That's after the renewed violence hit, and Ebola treatment centers were targeted. What's even worse is that those are only the known cases. As I've pointed out before, in the thick bush and equatorial forest of those regions, I won't be at all surprised to find that the actual number of cases (and fatalities) is three to four times higher than reported. It might be ten times higher, for all we know. The terrain is simply impenetrable to any Western standard of epidemiological medical care. Vehicles can't get in, supplies can move only on people's backs or on pack animals, they'll almost certainly be stolen or destroyed before they get where they're needed . . . it's a nightmare out there.
If I were the Ugandan, or Rwandan, or Burundian, or Kenyan health authorities, I'd be getting very little sleep right now, and my hair would be turning gray with worry. They've already got refugees flooding in from the infection zone. The disease could arrive with them at any moment - and there's damn all the local authorities can do to stop it.
Oh - and guess what? Some of those refugees are coming here, too. They're sitting in Mexico right now, waiting for transit visas - and that's only those who are actually waiting to do it quasi-legally. Others haven't bothered, and have already crossed into the USA. The current Ebola outbreak has an incubation period of up to 21 days. With modern air travel, a refugee from the infection zone could take less than a week to fly from Africa to Mexico, and arrive on our southern border. By the time he or she shows visible symptoms and is diagnosed with Ebola, they might have been smuggled all the way into a major US city. If that happens . . . hell's coming to breakfast.