One-quarter of Ebola infections in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo’s latest outbreak of the deadly virus may be going undetected, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned.
Michael Ryan, executive director of WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme, said on Thursday the epidemic was “not out of control, but it is certainly not under control”, with insecurity and community mistrust hampering emergency responders’ efforts.
“We believe we are probably detecting in excess of 75 percent of cases. We may be missing up to a quarter of cases,” Ryan said at a press conference in the Swiss city of Geneva.
“We must get earlier detection of cases, [and] have more exhaustive identification of contacts,” he added.
More than 2,000 cases – including 1,357 deaths – have been recorded since the epidemic started in the DRC’s North Kivu and Ituri provinces in August.
The outbreak – the second-worst on record – reached 1,000 cases in March. It then took less than three more months to surpass 2,000, signalling a tripling in the rate of infection.
In a bid to contain its spread, health workers inoculated more than 130,000 people to date as part of a government-backed vaccination programme. The vaccine is experimental but is estimated to be 97.5 percent effective and, according to WHO, may protect a person for up to 12 months.
In a weekly update issued separately on Thursday, WHO said there were “early signs” of an easing of the intensity with which the virus was spreading following weeks of insecurity that curbed access to communities and interrupted the vaccination programme.