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Ebola outbreak in the DRC to last "at least" 6 more months: Official

Data: DRC Ministry of Health; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon and Harry Stevens/Axios

The deadly Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is likely to persist for another 6 months, according to Peter Salama, the World Health Organization's top expert on emergency preparedness and response.

Why it matters: The prediction, given in an interview with the University of Minnesota publication CIDRAP, would mean that the outbreak — should it be squelched by August — will have gone on for a full year. Health officials have never had to combat Ebola in such a complex environment, with security challenges slowing the disease response at times. In addition, the deadly virus has spread across a large expanse in eastern Congo, including urban and rural regions.

The big picture: Salama told CIDRAP that the myriad challenges facing health care workers is preventing them from getting the upper hand on the outbreak. As of Jan. 16, the world's second-largest Ebola outbreak had sickened 668, with a total of 418 fatalities.

"This is the most complicated setting we've ever experienced in order to stop an Ebola outbreak. At a minimum, it will take six further months to stop."
— WHO's Peter Salama, in an interview with CIDRAP News

Salama noted the progress made against the virus in Beni, which had been the epicenter of the outbreak.

  • However, it has spread to Butembo and Katwa, which are more heavily populated areas.
  • In addition to violence and political instability, the Ebola response effort has been slowed by community resistance to treatment, with many patients choosing to be treated at home rather than go to an Ebola clinic. The resistance could contribute to more cases, since caregivers who travel to patients' then risk getting sick.

Go deeper: Read Axios' full Ebola coverage.