The head of a major medical research charity
has called the latest outbreak of Ebola in central Africa “truly
Nearly 1,400 people have died in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Dr Jeremy Farrar, the director of the Wellcome Trust, said the epidemic was
the worst since that of 2013-16 and has showed “no sign of stopping”.
A five-year-old boy has also died in neighbouring Uganda, the first case of
Ebola reported in the country.
The Ugandan government is now reporting seven other suspected cases of the
In a statement, Dr Farrar said the spread was “tragic but unfortunately
not surprising”. He warned that more cases were expected, and a
“full” national and international response would be needed to protect
“The DRC should not have to face this alone,” he said.
Since the first case of Ebola in the DRC last August, nearly 1,400 people
have died – around 70% of all those infected.
The outbreak is the second-largest in the history of the disease, with a
significant spike in new cases in recent weeks.
Only once before has an outbreak continued to grow more than eight months
after it began – that was the epidemic in West Africa between 2013-16
which killed 11,310 people.
Efforts to contain the spread have been hindered by militia group violence
and by suspicion towards foreign medical assistance.
Nearly 200 health facilities have been attacked in the DRC this year,
forcing health workers to suspend or delay vaccinations and treatments. In
February, medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) put its activities on
hold in Butembo and Katwa – two eastern cities in the outbreak’s epicentre.
In Uganda, a five-year-old boy died of the virus on Tuesday, according to
the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Officials said his grandmother and younger brother also had the disease. The
boy is said to have travelled across the border with his family from the DRC on
Sunday. He was then taken to a Ugandan hospital after exhibiting symptoms,
including vomiting blood, officials said.
Seven other cases have been confirmed in the country, and Uganda’s
government said 50 people were suspected to have come into contact with those
Cases of Ebola appearing in another country are always a significant and
worrying development. The key question now is how far has the virus spread in
Has it been contained to just the family that crossed the border from the
Democratic Republic of Congo or has it spread more widely? This is a moment
that Uganda has long prepared for and, hopefully, measures such as
pre-emptively vaccinating healthcare workers will lower the risk of Ebola
This outbreak is already the second largest in human history and some have
predicted it could take up to two more years to bring to an end. The World
Health Organization has twice ruled that this Ebola outbreak is not a yet
global emergency. Its Emergency Committee will meet again on Friday.
In Uganda, mass gatherings including market days and prayers have been
cancelled. Market days in the town of Kasese attract an estimated 20,000 people
at the border area.
Uganda’s health ministry and the WHO said a rapid response team had been
dispatched to identify others at risk
The country has already vaccinated about 4,700 health workers against the
disease, according to a joint statement by WHO and Ugandan health officials.
On Wednesday, WHO head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that he would hold an
IHR Emergency Committee meeting on 14 June. The group will decide if the
outbreak should now be deemed a public health emergency.
What is Ebola?
- Ebola is a
virus that initially causes sudden fever, intense weakness, muscle pain
and a sore throat.
progresses to vomiting, diarrhoea and both internal and external bleeding.
- People are
infected when they have direct contact through broken skin, or the mouth
and nose, with the blood, vomit, faeces or bodily fluids of someone with
tend to die from dehydration and multiple organ failure