- The Washington Times - Friday, October 26, 2018

The World Health Organization on Friday said a series of clashes in Ebola-affected parts of Congo are impeding the response but that it won’t back down from the fight or slash its footprint of 250 staff members in the region.

The outbreak in North Kivu province has resulted in more than 200 cases and been linked to 159 deaths.

A massive aid response is contending with spurts of violence, however, including skirmishes between rebel and government forces that have resulted in civilian deaths. In other cases, response vehicles are being pelted by stones.

These events continue to “cause community distress and severely impede response activities,” WHO said in a situation report on the outbreak.

WHO, the public health arm of the United Nations, said it will continue its work, from tracing new contacts of infected persons and vaccinating them to ensuring safe burials in affected communities.

Ebola is a serious, often-fatal disease that is transmitted to people from wild animals and spreads from human to human through the bodily fluids of people who exhibit symptoms.

The latest outbreak is Congo’s 10th since Ebola was discovered in the late 1970s and its second this year. A major outbreak in West Africa killed more than 11,000 in 2014-2016.

WHO has declined to label the outbreak a global emergency, though it does fear the virus could spread in the region.

“Risk of the outbreak spreading to other provinces in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as well as to neighbouring countries, remains very high with ongoing transmission in communities in North Kivu,” it said.

“Enhanced efforts are needed to ensure areas beyond the main affected health zones are prepared and operationally ready to rapidly detect, investigate and respond to any such exportations of the virus.”

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

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