The outbreak in the two eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo has become the worst known epidemic of deadly Ebola virus in the country's history.
The Congolese Health Ministry said in a statement on Saturday that 326 people were infected with the Ebola virus in northern Kivu and the Ituri provinces.
This makes this epidemic worse than the 1976 epidemic in Yambuku, which raises 318 people and left 280 dead. This epidemic is the first time scientists have identified what is now known as the deadliest type of Ebola virus. The appearance in the town of Kikwith in 1995 was funded by 315 people, of whom 250 died.
The current epidemic is now the third worst epidemic of Ebola in modern history. The epidemic in West Africa from 2013 to 2015 has infected more than 28,600 people mainly in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. Bans in Uganda In 2000, the Ebola virus suicide was infected by more than 400 people.
After first appearing under control, the number of cases in the northern province of Kivu appeared in September and October, worried by public health officials around the world. At a Capitol Hill meeting last week, Robert Redfield, director of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, warned that outbreaks could spread so broadly that the Ebola virus could become endemic in Central Africa.
The Congolese Ministry of Health, World Health Organization and non-governmental organizations such as the Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders sent hundreds of people into the epicenter of outbreaks. They have vaccinated more than 28,000 people, including those who have come into contact with Ebola victims and frontline health workers who would be most vulnerable to the virus.
But the reaction was partially halted due to the unstable security situation in which tens of armed groups opposed to government threatened or attacked by healthcare workers.
A bomb blast at the end of August, blamed on Islamist militants crossing the border in Uganda, closed the reaction in the city of Bena for several days, allowing the virus to go further. Last month, two health workers employed by the Congolese army died in ambush.
"No other epidemic in the world was as complex as the one currently facing. Since their arrival in the region, teams have faced threats, physical assaults, repeated destruction of their equipment and abductions," Oly Ilunga Kalenga, the Congolese Minister Health.
The current epidemic began at the end of July, probably when the virus spreads on a funeral through the family of the woman who took the disease. The virus later spread to Beni, a regional trading center of about a quarter of a million inhabitants. From there it expanded to Butembo, an international trading node at the border with Uganda.
About half of the so far identified cases, 159, appeared in Ben. 36 more people were identified in Butembu. The World Health Organization has sent assistance to Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, and the South Sudan to expect the virus to cross the international border.
"A challenging road for intensive transfer control in the city of Bena and new hot spots in the villages around Ben and Butembo remains," the World Health Organization said in a weekly assessment of the situation in the field.
North Kivu is home to about eight million people, of whom one million internally displaced after years of ethnic conflict. It is the largest province in the Congo outside the capital, Kinshasa.
Oliver Johnson, a visiting global health lecturer at King's College London and co-author of "Getting Zero," a book on the Ebola epidemic 2014-2015 in West Africa, said the conflict in eastern Congo had provoked government mistrust in Kinshasa, and any international group that could come to the scene to try to help.
"There is a high doubt that Eboli's messages are a fake and part of the conspiracy, which is very difficult to persuade people to seek treatment or change behavior in order to protect themselves," Johnson said in Sunday's email. "There is a real challenge when reagents get physically accessed by communities – to collect sick emergency patients to take them to a medical center, to address communities to prevent further spread or distribution of vaccines."
Violence in North Kivu limited the US response to the outbreak. Following the attack on the base of the Congolese Army in August, the State Department ordered responses from the US Agency for International Development and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention outside the area, first to the regional capital Gomi, and then to Kinshasa, at a distance of 1,700 miles from the Epicenter of the outbreak.
Moving the CDC field staff back to the capital "sets the risk response to failure at critical time," Johnson said.
The World Health Organization said there were only 29 new cases in the region last week. There are three health workers among new victims.
WHO said that the risk that the virus spreads across national or international borders "is still very high". The Ministry of Health has set up experts to prepare for the ten provinces around North Kivu.
Health officials attend more than 5,400 people who have come into contact with Ebola victims, a practice known as a contact trace, with the aim of getting new cases of treating the first sign of infection.
"The epidemic remains dangerous and unpredictable, and we must not allow our protection," said Minister of Health Ilunga Kalenga. "We must continue with a very dynamic response that requires constant adaptation and really community-based ownership."