We have followed the outbreak of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of the Congo for over six months.

Officials have reported nearly 3,000 cases of the hemorrhagic disease. However, the actual number of infected Congolese may be a third higher than figures show, experts have warned.

A World Health Organization director of health emergencies said aid workers may be missing up to a quarter of cases because people are refusing treatment.

This could mean the true number of patients is more than 2,700 – official records from Wednesday, 5 June, say 2,031 have been infected and 1,346 have died.

The outbreak has now been going on for around 10 months and is getting worse – week-by-week infection rates are far higher than at any time before March.

‘We believe… we’re probably detecting in excess of 75 per cent of cases,’ said the WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme executive director, Dr Mike Ryan.

‘We may be missing up to a quarter of cases.’

Public health officials have also indicated this particular outbreak could last as long as two years.

“This outbreak is not under control at this time,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Robert Redfield told the House Foreign Affairs Committee this week. He said the virus could rage in Congo for as long as two years.

Speaking to reporters Thursday in Geneva, Michael Ryan, overseeing the response for the World Health Organization (WHO), agreed.

“In a worse case scenario, I can definitely develop a scenario where this is going to take another year or two years,” Ryan said. “At this point, the outcome is effort-related. Are we prepared to make the immediate, sustained, comprehensive effort to bring this disease under control?”

The situation is such that the World Health Organization (WHO) warns our world is entering “a new phase,” where large outbreaks of deadly diseases like Ebola are a “new normal.” Furthermore, the deadly virus isn’t the only biological hazard facing us either.

“We are entering a very new phase of high impact epidemics and this isn’t just Ebola,” Dr Michael Ryan, the executive director of the WHO’s health emergencies programme told me.

He said the world is “seeing a very worrying convergence of risks” that are increasing the dangers of diseases including Ebola, cholera and yellow fever.

…Dr Ryan said the World Health Organization was tracking 160 disease events around the world and nine were grade three emergencies (the WHO’s highest emergency level).

“I don’t think we’ve ever had a situation where we’re responding to so many emergencies at one time. This is a new normal, I don’t expect the frequency of these events to reduce.”.

Meanwhile, Texas officials scrambled this week to find French-speaking volunteers to help with 350 Congolese migrants arriving in the state.

“We didn’t get a heads up,” Interim Assistant City Manager Dr. Collen Bridger told KEN 5 after a group of 350 Congolese migrants arrived in the city unexpectedly. “When we called Border Patrol to confirm, they said, ‘yea another 200 to 300 from the Congo and Angola will be coming to San Antonio.’”

…In a press call on Wednesday afternoon, Brian Hastings, U.S. Border Patrol Chief of Law Enforcement Operations, told reporters this was the first large group “ever recorded in Border Patrol history solely from Central and South Africa. We’ve never seen that demographic in a large group of that size before.”

Given the continuing Ebola crisis in Central Africa, it might be useful to either seal the border or prepare for even larger groups fleeing Ebola and civil war.

[Featured image via YouTube]


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