The Democratic Republic of Congo continues to fight off the worst Ebola outbreak in years. Butembo, a major regional hub of 1 million people, has now had a confirmed death.
The World Health Organization is worried, and recommends you worry too.
The Democratic Republic of Congo has confirmed its first Ebola death in the eastern city of Butembo, a trade hub with Uganda that is home to almost a million people. This first urban death, combined with ongoing violence in the northeastern outbreak area in DRC and some community resistance, is worrying experts that the slowing outbreak could still escalate.
Having already killed 87 people, this outbreak is close to becoming the eighth-largest Ebola outbreak in history. While officials have been pleased with the decreasing pace of cases and a successful vaccination and contact tracing campaign, this new case in an urban setting is worrisome, Peter Salama, the World Health Organization’s emergency response chief, told HuffPost.
“When you have an Ebola case confirmed in a city with 1 million people, no one should be sleeping well tonight around the world,” Salama said.
The patient traveled from the current outbreak hotspot, the town of Beni, 35 miles southwest, to Butembo after disregarding medical advice, Salama said. The patient died at a health facility there.
While WHO team members are on site and working to quickly trace and vaccinate those with whom the patient came into contact, the potential for further spread could “change the trajectory of the outbreak,” Salama said. Two more cases are suspected in the trading hub, the DRC’s Ministry of Health reported Wednesday. Butembo is known for being critical to import and export between DRC and East Africa, Reuters reported.
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