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Congo's latest Ebola outbreak taking place in a war zone

AP  |  Beni 

In a new reminder of the dangers in containing an outbreak in a war zone, suspected rebels killed seven civilians overnight in northeastern and sent local residents fleeing, an said.

Global officials have warned that combating this outbreak is complicated by the presence of multiple armed groups in the mineral-rich region and a restless population that includes 1 million displaced people and scores of refugees leaving for nearby every week.

The insecurity means workers might have to change a strategy that proved successful in Congo's previous outbreak, the World Organization's Dr. said yesterday.

The so-called "ring vaccination" approach of first vaccinating health workers, contacts of victims and their contacts might have to give way to the approach of vaccinating everyone in a certain geographic area such as a village or neighborhood.

That would require a larger number of vaccine doses.

began Wednesday in the current outbreak, which was declared on Aug. 1 and has killed 11 people in the densely populated region. WHO has said more than 3,000 Ebola vaccine doses are available in

While outbreak, declared over barely a week before the current one began, set off alarm by spreading to a city of more than 1 million on the other side of the country, the current outbreak comes with the threat of armed attack.

The overnight assault that killed seven people in Mayi-Moya, about 40 kilometers (24 miles) from Beni city, was likely carried out by rebels with the Allied Democratic Forces, the of Beni territory, Donat Kibwana, told The rebels have killed more than 1,500 people in and around Beni in less than two years.

The rebels sent the local population fleeing, Kibwana said. Beni residents already had been shaken by the discovery on Tuesday of 14 bodies of civilians who had been seized by suspected ADF rebels.

The latest attack occurred as the WHO director-general, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, was visiting the area to see the response to the Ebola outbreak, which is being carried out in some cases under armed escort. peacekeepers, and at times Congolese troops have been traveling with convoys of health workers as they fan out to contain the outbreak. Hospitals are guarded by and military police.

"This will be a highly complex operation because it is occurring in an area that has been embroiled in armed conflict for 20 years," said Hanna Leskinen, a for the "People are regularly moving as waves of violence force new communities to flee.

This makes tracing infected cases much harder." Health care workers may be forced to flee as well, she said.

Parts of province, where most of the Ebola cases have been reported, have been inaccessible to because of the fighting, Leskinen said.

"It is critical that the is contained before it spreads to areas where there is more active fighting or it will be incredibly challenging to reach those in need (and) ensure safe campaigns," she said. That includes keeping the vaccines at the optimal temperature of minus 70 degrees Celsius (minus 158 degrees Fahrenheit), a challenge in a region with hot temperatures and unreliable power supplies.

So far, Congo's health ministry has said 48 cases of have been reported in this outbreak, 21 of them confirmed as Ebola.

Nearly 1,000 people are being monitored. Screenings for the virus are being carried out at the heavily traveled border; officials have said are not necessary.

This is Congo's tenth outbreak of Ebola, which is spread via contact with bodily fluids of those infected, including the dead. There is no licensed treatment, and the virus can be fatal in up to 90 percent of cases, depending on the strain.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Sun, August 12 2018. 02:06 IST