Jan 24, 2019

Ebola outbreak in the Congo gets worse as cases spike

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

The Ebola outbreak simmering in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is worsening in some ways, despite major successes in combating the illness in some parts of the country.

Why it matters: The ongoing outbreak is the second-worst on record worldwide. A top official with the World Health Organization — which along with several nongovernmental organizations has been at the vanguard of the Ebola fight — said last week that it will likely continue for another six months.

  • This is despite more than 400 WHO personnel on the ground and what's been considered a successful start of a vaccination campaign there.

The big picture: The WHO has pointed to the success in reducing Ebola virus transmission in Beni, a city in conflict-ridden northeastern Congo, as an example of what can be done to combat the outbreak in other parts of the country.

However, experts say the gains in Beni, which came despite difficult circumstances, don't necessarily mean Ebola can be squelched elsewhere without a different approach or major increase in resources.

  • Right now, for example, health workers are pursuing a ring vaccination strategy, which requires tracking down every person that an Ebola patient came into contact with when they were ill, and inoculating them to stop its spread. It also requires following up with known contacts to see if they develop symptoms.
  • However, there are clear signs that circumstances are preventing contact tracing from working, including the fact that many community cases keep popping up. These are people who weren't already known to health workers.

What they're saying: “There’s still no way out of this without complete and thorough contact tracing,” says Jennifer Nuzzo, public health expert at Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. “It’s hard to argue against the value of the vaccine, but a vaccine alone is not going to get us out of here."

Go deeper: Axios' full Ebola coverage

Go deeper

Measles-related death toll tops 6,000 in Democratic Republic of the Congo

Deaths from measles in the Democratic Republic of the Congo surpassed 6,000, with children over the age of 5 most vulnerable to the infectious disease, new data from the World Health Organization showed Tuesday.

Why it matters: About 310,000 suspected measles cases, one-fourth of which are in kids over age 5, have been reported since the beginning of 2019. Vaccinations for children have made headway in some parts of the country, but public health officials are still trying to keep the disease at bay.

Go deeper: DRC health leader discusses what's being done to fight Ebola

China virus kills one and spreads to Thailand, but U.S. threat remains minimal

Security guards in front of the closed wholesale seafood market in Wuhan, where a man who recently died from the coronavirus had purchased goods. Photo: Noel Celis/AFP via Getty Images

A mysterious virus discovered in Wuhan, China, is believed to have played a role in the death of a patient, while another case has been reported by a person who traveled from Wuhan to Thailand, the World Health Organization confirmed Monday.

The latest: Chinese officials said Sunday that one out of 41 confirmed patients has died, but cautioned that they had underlying health issues. A public health official said the U.S. is not overly concerned the virus might spread here.

Go deeperArrowJan 13, 2020

Medicare for All's missing mental health discussion

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

America's mental health care system is in dire need of an overhaul, but the any real specifics are largely missing from the 2020 debate about health care.

Why it matters: Suicide and drug overdose rates continue to rise, and the U.S. faces a shortage of mental health providers and a lack of access to treatment.

Go deeperArrowJan 8, 2020