By Devin Watkins
CAFOD, the international development charity of the Church in England and Wales, has expressed concern about an outbreak of the Ebola virus in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The country’s health services reported five new cases in the northeastern Beni region, and is seeking to contain the spread through treatment and contact tracing.
Three people have already died in this most recent outbreak of Ebola, which causes fever, blood clots, and internal bleeding and has a fatality rate of around 50 percent.
In response, the Church’s humanitarian networks are working to dispel myths about vaccines and treatments, as well as teaching people about vital hygiene.
Overcoming rumours and misinformation
In a press release on Thursday, CAFOD said the Ebola outbreak could be difficult to contain, as Covid-19 continues to spread and some medical staff in DR Congo are on strike.
“Coronavirus is still spreading and a new Ebola outbreak would push many communities to breaking point,” said Bernard Balibuno.
CAFOD’s representative in DR Congo added that rumours and false ideas about vaccinations are prevalent in the region.
“During the last major outbreak from 2018-2020,” he said, “CAFOD brought together faith organisations to help dispel myths through radio programmes, local theatre and by going door to door to convince people to get vaccinated.”
Mr. Balibuno said this community outreach approach is still the best response to the new Ebola outbreak.
Outbreak in a hard-hit region
DR Congo’s Beni region continues to suffer from a host of humanitarian crises, including more than two decades of conflict.
“Thousands have been forced to flee their homes and are already at increased risk of hunger and disease,” said Mr. Balibuno.
He added that women and children have had the worst of it. “Their everyday lives are worlds apart from those we are able to enjoy,” he noted.
How is Ebola treated?
The Ebola virus was first discovered in DR Congo in 1976, and experts believe it infects humans through contact with infected animals, most often bats, chimpanzees, and forest antelope.
Humans can then spread it via bodily fluids.
There is no known cure for Ebola, and only an experimental vaccine is currently available.
Treatment typically includes keeping a patient hydrated, and early diagnosis is crucial to survival.