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The Democratic Republic of the Congo’s current Ebola outbreak could soon spread to neighboring countries Uganda, Rwanda, and South Sudan — and the number of cases is expected to double, the Guardian reported.

The World Health Organization (WHO) issued a statement last week advising that the virus could soon spread. This warning comes after efforts to contain the current outbreak have proven to be difficult.

Less than a month after an Ebola outbreak was declared in the DRC, a case was confirmed in North Kivu Province, in Oicha, an eastern town that is surrounded by the Allied Democratic Forces, an armed insurgent militia.

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The case in Oicha was the first to be confirmed in such a dangerous region of the country — which presented great challenges to health workers attempting to contain the outbreak — but it was far from the last, as violence erupted in Beni.

Since then, the cases have increased and there have been attacks on aid organizations and health workers.

In December, the presidential elections in the DRC were postponed reportedly due to insecurity and the Ebola outbreak, but critics argued it was an attempt by president Joseph Kabila to remain in power. This led to violence and protests, and hindered health efforts even more.

Virus tracing efforts were delayed and about 30 health centers were targeted by protesters, further delaying efforts to contain the disease, according to the Guardian.

The number of cases is increasing according to Jean-Philippe Marcoux, Mercy Corps’ country director for DRC.

“Now it’s doubling — it’s very possible that it can double again,” Marcoux told the Guardian. “If we don’t significantly increase the resources, it will keep increasing. It will spread progressively to other health areas and it will be there for a long time.”

There have been 689 confirmed or probable cases of Ebola since August, and 422 deaths as of Jan. 20, according to the WHO.

About half of the cases were transmitted within health centers, but there is concern around the fact that source of transmission is unclear for other cases, which could mean an increase in unsafe burial practices.

Marcoux said that more needs to be done to keep Ebola from spreading, and that he expects the current outbreak to last another nine to 12 months, the Guardian reported.


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Ebola Cases Expected to Double in DRC's Second-Deadliest Outbreak Ever

By Jackie Marchildon