The ongoing Ebola Virus outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has officially been declared the worst such outbreak in the country’s history as the death toll approaches 200.
According to a report from the BBC, this is the 10th time Ebola has struck the African nation, but regional violence around the outbreak’s epicenter in North Kivu is making it challenging for medical workers to reach patients.
This latest occurrence began in August of this year and is not believed the be connected to the previous Ebola outbreak which hit the eastern portion of the country earlier in 2018.
“At this point, 319 cases and 198 deaths have been registered,” said DRC health minister Oly Ilunga while speaking to the BBC. “In view of these figures, my thoughts and my prayers go to the hundreds of families grieving, to the hundreds of orphans and the families which have been wiped out.”
As the number of confirmed cases crosses the 300 mark, the international community is becoming more alarmed, and many experts fear the virus will soon cross into Uganda.
U.S. personnel with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are currently deployed to the country but have found it difficult to locate patients, especially those outside of the city of Beni reports Reuters.
“We are absolutely concerned about the ongoing outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo,” said USAID’s senior official in the region while speaking to Reuters.
Further complicating the situation is the militia-led attacks on healthcare workers, which has already resulted in the deaths of more than a dozen medical personnel. One report from The Guardian states that the level of violence is unprecedented and humanitarian staff members are struggling to adapt.
“I have been responding to different disease outbreaks in the Democratic Republic of the Congo for 18 years, yet I have never seen anything as challenging as containing Ebola in an armed conflict zone,” wrote Dr. Eric Mukam, a Congolese health zone coordinator working Beni.
Although the situation is dire, USAID officials stressed that this current outbreak is much smaller than the 28,000 patient 2014-2016 outbreak in West Africa.