The latest Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo has proven a sumbitch to contain. Since this latest "oh shit" moment in the history of this infectious outbreak started on August 1st, the brave healthcare professionals and epidemiologists throwing their shoulders into the problem have reported 200 total cases of the disease, 117 confirmed Ebola-related deaths and 35 deaths that are probably related to the illness. This latest outbreak, the 10th to have cropped up in Congo since 1976, is proving more difficult, logistically, than past outbreaks have been. The epicenter of the outbreak is in North Kivu Province: chockablock with danger as government forces, local militias and regional warlords get their violence on. This makes getting folks in the region to the care that they need and, just as vital, containing the disease, far more difficult than it already is.
From The New York Times:
Congolese rebels have killed 15 civilians and abducted a dozen children in an attack in the center of the latest outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus, Congo's military said Sunday. The violence threatened to again force the suspension of efforts to contain the virus.
Congo's health ministry has reported "numerous aggressions" in the new outbreak against health workers, who have described hearing gunshots daily. Many are operating under the armed escort of United Nations peacekeepers or Congolese security forces, and ending work by sundown to lower the risk of attack.
The World Health Organization hasn't classified the outbreak as a world health emergency, yet. But the conditions are perfect for the current Ebola flareup to become an absolute containment clusterfuck. War keeps populations moving as they work to avoid the violence. Displaced people mingle in areas where they may not have in the past – from population centers to refugee camps: anywhere they can shelter from the horrors that drove them from their homes. Given that an individual can carry Ebola for weeks without knowing or showing any symptoms, it's already difficult to know who to segregate from the population without having the potentially infected roaming around. Add to this the threat of violence at every turn and you've got the makings of a disaster.
Image via the U.S. Department of Defense