Medical workers lead a young girl with suspected Ebola into a treatment center in Beni on Aug. 12. Photo: John Wessels/AFP/Getty Images

The escalation of violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo jeopardizes the recent gains made in halting the ongoing Ebola outbreak and could trigger a surge in new infections if health care workers and civilians are not protected, World Health Organization officials warned Wednesday.

The perfect storm: Peter Salama, WHO's head of emergency response, said Tuesday they were "extremely concerned" about recent violence that in some areas endangered health officials and halting the Ebola prevention and treatment regimes.

"A perfect storm of active conflict, limiting our ability to access civilians, distress by segments of the community, already traumatized by decades of conflict."
— Peter Salama

What's happening now: While violence has been an ongoing issue with certain areas in DRC, there was a recent surge in violence when an attack Saturday in Beni killed at least 21 people and elevated tensions between different sectors there.

  • Per Al Jazeera, the Congolese army blames the Allied Democratic Forces, one of the notorious rebel militias trying to gain control of DRC's mineral resources, amongst other things.

Health concerns: As Salama tweeted below, one of the concerns is that public health officials have not been able to reach out to the "contacts" of people known to be infected to ensure they had not been infected themselves. This could mean the infection could spread rapidly without them knowing.

  • Tracking contacts is an important method of controlling the spread of Ebola and also provides an indication of the outbreak status, as it's considered a good sign once all new infections can be traced directly to a known infected patient.

Go deeper: Violence in Congo imperils efforts to combat Ebola outbreak (The Washington Post)

Go deeper

4 mins ago - World

Nuclear free-for-all: The arms control era may be ending

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The mushroom clouds over Hiroshima and Nagasaki have remained unreplicated for 75 years in part because the U.S. and Soviet Union — after peering over the ledge into nuclear armageddon — began to negotiate.

Why it matters: The arms control era that began after the Cuban Missile Crisis may now be coming to a close. The next phase could be a nuclear free-for-all.

Pelosi, Schumer demand postmaster general reverse USPS cuts ahead of election

Schumer and Pelosi. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer sent a letter to Postmaster General Louis DeJoy on Thursday calling for the recent Trump appointee to reverse operational changes to the U.S. Postal Service that "threaten the timely delivery of mail" ahead of the 2020 election.

Why it matters: U.S. mail and election infrastructure are facing a test like no other this November, with a record-breaking number of mail-in ballots expected as Americans attempt to vote in the midst of a pandemic.

2 hours ago - Science

CRISPR co-discoverer on the gene editor's pandemic push

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photos: Brian Ach/Getty Images for Wired and BSIP/UIG via Getty Images

The coronavirus pandemic is accelerating the development of CRISPR-based tests for detecting disease — and highlighting how gene-editing tools might one day fight pandemics, one of its discoverers, Jennifer Doudna, tells Axios.

Why it matters: Testing shortages and backlogs underscore a need for improved mass testing for COVID-19. Diagnostic tests based on CRISPR — which Doudna and colleagues identified in 2012, ushering in the "CRISPR revolution" in genome editing — are being developed for dengue, Zika and other diseases, but a global pandemic is a proving ground for these tools that hold promise for speed and lower costs.