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Ebola epidemic in DR Congo now exceeds 1,000 cases

BENI: The number of cases in a nearly eight-month-old epidemic of Ebola in eastern DR Congo now exceeds 1,000, almost two-thirds of whom have died, the health ministry said late Sunday.

“The accumulated number of cases is 1,009,” of which 629 cases were fatal, it said.

The outbreak was first recorded in North Kivu province on August 1, and then spread to neighbouring Ituri province.

Its toll is the second deadliest in the history of Ebola, after an epidemic in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone in 2014-6 that claimed 11,308 lives, according to the website of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Ebola virus disease was first discovered in 1974 in a village near the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Ebola River, which gave the disease its name.

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Efforts to contain the latest outbreak, the 10th in the DRC’s history, have been hampered by poor security in the highly unstable east, which teems with militia groups.

On March 7, the medical charity Doctors Without Borders MSF had warned that efforts to curb the Democratic Republic of Congo’s worst Ebola outbreak were stumbling, blaming the role of the security forces in the response and their “toxic” relations with local communities.

Seven months into the outbreak, “the Ebola response is failing to bring the epidemic under control,” MSF had said in a statement.

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It highlighted that more than 40 percent of deaths are occurring in communities rather than in Ebola treatment centres.

“That means that we have not reached them and they have not sought our care,” MSF chief Joanne Liu told reporters in Geneva.

The outbreak emerged in North Kivu last August and then spread to neighbouring Ituri province.

It has claimed 561 lives out of 894 recorded cases, according the latest DRC health ministry figures.

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