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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

Neera Tanden withdraws nomination for Office of Management and Budget director

Neera Tanden testifying before the Senate Budget Committee in Washington, D.C., in February 2021. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Neera Tanden withdrew her name from nomination to lead the Office of Management and Budget after several senators voiced opposition and concern about her qualifications and past combative tweets, President Biden announced Tuesday.

Why it matters: Tanden’s decision to pull her nomination marks Biden's first setback in filling out his Cabinet with a thin Democratic majority in the Senate.

What's ahead for the newest female CEOs

Jane Fraser (L) and Rosalind Brewer. Photos: Jason Redmond/AFP via Getty Images; Rodrigo Capote/Bloomberg via Getty Images.

The number of women at the helm of America’s biggest companies pales in comparison to men, but is newly growing — and their tasks are huge.

What's going on: Jane Fraser took over at Citigroup this week, the first woman to ever lead a major U.S. bank. Rosalind Brewer will take the reins at Walgreens in the coming weeks (March 15) — a company that's been run by white men for more than a century.

3 hours ago - Health

Biden says U.S. will have enough vaccines for 300 million adults by end of May

President Biden. Photo: Anna Moneymaker-Pool/Getty Images

President Biden on Tuesday said that ramped-up coronavirus vaccine production will provide enough doses for 300 million Americans by the end May.

Why it matters: That's two months sooner than Biden's previous promise of enough vaccines for all American adults by the end of July.

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