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

Worries over the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo have spiked after violence surrounding last weekend's elections led to hundreds of refugees flooding bordering countries and caused DRC and international health workers to withdraw completely in some areas.

Why it matters: Efforts to treat and contain Ebola had been successful in the hotspot city of Beni during the early weeks of December, but experts say recent events have likely taken a significant toll on progress. That includes the government's move to reportedly shut down the country's internet in the wake of the election violence.

The big picture: Jessica Ilunga, spokesperson for DRC Ministry of Health, told Axios earlier this week that the protests have forced health workers to halt key response activities like "responding to alerts, contact tracing, vaccination and safe and dignified burials" — suspensions that could allow the virus to spread.

Attacks against health care workers have also been growing lately, partly due to simmering tensions due to the inability to vote and misinformation, Ilunga says.

"There have been rumors in the community, sometimes spread by local politicians to boost their popularity, that Ebola was created by the national government in Kinshasa to kill the Nande population, which is the majority ethnic group in that region. ... With the decision [to postpone elections in some areas], the population felt like those rumors were true after all and that’s probably why they expressed their anger towards health facilities and agents, who have been helping them from the beginning."
— Jessica Ilunga

What they're saying: Jennifer Nuzzo, public health expert at Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, tells Axios there was a "little bit of hope" a couple weeks ago when concentrated efforts reduced new infection rates, but that the situation is now "dire."

  • The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — whose expertise is "unmatched when it comes to Ebola" — must take on-the ground action as the change in migration patterns increases the spread of the virus, Nuzzo says.

While some CDC personnel were moved to more secure locations "when armed conflict threatened the safety of staff," some still remain, CDC spokesperson Benjamin Haynes tells Axios.

  • That includes personnel working directly with the DRC's Ministry of Health, staff in the World Health Organization's emergency office, and a senior CDC doctor working with USAID’s DART team on the ground in Kinshasa.
"Everyone appreciates the importance of having CDC experts supporting the outbreak response efforts as directly as possible, and there is a mutual desire to provide the best resources to fight the outbreak in the DRC."
— Benjamin Haynes

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Federal judge orders Trump administration to restore DACA

DACA recipients and their supporters rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court on June 18. Photo: Drew Angerer via Getty

A federal judge on Friday ordered the Trump administration to fully restore the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, giving undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children a chance to petition for protection from deportation.

Why it matters: DACA was implemented under former President Obama, but President Trump has sought to undo the program since taking office. Friday’s ruling will require Department of Homeland Security officers to begin accepting applications starting Monday and guarantee that work permits are valid for two years.

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Politics: Fauci says he accepted Biden's offer to be chief medical adviser "on the spot" — The recovery needs rocket fuel.
  2. Health: CDC: It's time for "universal face mask use" — Death rates rising across the country — Study: Increased testing can reduce transmission.
  3. Economy: U.S. economy adds 245,000 jobs in November as recovery slows — America's hidden depression: K-shaped recovery threatens Biden administration.
  4. Cities: Bay Area counties to enact stay-at-home order ahead of state mandate
  5. Vaccine: What vaccine trials still need to do.
  6. World: UN warns "2021 is literally going to be catastrophic"
  7. 🎧 Podcast: Former FDA chief Rob Califf on the vaccine approval process.
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Bay Area counties to enact stay-at-home order ahead of state mandate

Golden Gate Park. Photo: Justin Sullivan via Getty

Counties around the San Francisco Bay Area will adopt California’s new regional stay-at-home order amid surges in cases and ICU hospitalizations, health officials said Friday.

The big picture: California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a three-week stay-at-home order on Thursday that would go into effect in regions with less than 15% ICU capacity. Despite the Bay Area’s current 25.3% ICU capacity, health officials from Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Santa Clara, San Francisco and the city of Berkeley are moving ahead with a shelter-in-place mandate in the hopes of reducing risk.

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