This morning’s headlines about the latest Ebola outbreak in the Congo make grim reading.
Butembo, with more than 1 million residents, is now reporting cases of the deadly hemorrhagic fever. That complicates Ebola containment work already challenged by rebel attacks elsewhere that have made tracking the virus almost impossible in some isolated villages.
“We are very concerned by the epidemiological situation in the Butembo area,” said John Johnson, project coordinator with Medecins Sans Frontieres in the city. New cases are increasing quickly in the eastern suburbs and outlying, isolated districts, the medical charity said.
. . .
This is by far the largest deployment of the promising but still experimental Ebola vaccine, which is owned by Merck. The company keeps a stockpile of 300,000 doses, and preparing them takes months.
“We are extremely concerned about the size of the vaccine stockpile,” WHO’s emergencies director, Dr. Peter Salama, told the STAT media outlet in an interview this week, saying 300,000 doses is not sufficient as urban Ebola outbreaks become more common … The prospect of a mass vaccination in a major city like Butembo has raised concerns. Salama called the approach “extremely impractical.”
. . .
This Ebola outbreak is like no other, with deadly attacks by rebel groups forcing containment work to pause for days at a time. Some wary locals have resisted vaccinations or safe burials of Ebola victims as health workers battle misinformation in a region that has never encountered the virus before.
A “fringe population” has regularly destroyed medical equipment and attacked workers, Health Minister Dr. Oly Ilunga Kalenga told reporters on Wednesday.
There’s more at the link.
Take a look at where Butembo is situated in relation to surrounding nations.
The city is right smack bang in the center of central Africa, the equatorial region, the Great Lakes of Africa, the dense tribal populations of the jungle and mountain region . . . you’re talking probably half a billion people living in the area shown above. The place has few main roads or rail links, and thousands of miles of bush roads and animal trails along which people can move unseen and unchecked – unstoppable. It’s absolutely impossible to criss-cross the area at any speed with the amount of medical supplies and facilities needed to contain this disease once it breaks out.
I’ve written before about the risks involved. A million people are now in Ebola’s melting-pot. Already some will have fled into the bush, and will be making their way across inter-tribal boundaries and international borders. Based on my knowledge of the area and its people, I no longer think this outbreak can be contained. I hope the authorities are checking air travelers very, very rigorously, because if just a few get on planes to Europe and the Far East while carrying Ebola . . . hell’s coming to breakfast.