The current outbreak of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has infected 1,720 and killed 1,136, giving the viral disease a whopping 66 percent fatality rate. And the situation is making public health experts on the ground increasingly nervous.
It’s the second worst Ebola outbreak in history, and while more than 110 cases were identified in the past week alone, the World Health Organization warns that “these numbers are likely to continue to increase” as health workers address a backlog created by a major disruption of health care services by armed militia groups.
The worst Ebola outbreak in history was in West Africa from 2014 to 2016, and infected almost 30,000 people, killing more than 11,000. And even though the current outbreak hasn’t touched nearly as many people, health officials on the ground are sounding the alarm to get more international attention.
“Whether it gets to the absolute scale of West Africa or not, none of us know, but this is massive in comparison with any other outbreak in the history of Ebola and it is still expanding,” Jeremy Farrar, the head of the Wellcome Trust, told the Guardian.
Thankfully the outbreak has so far been relatively confined geographically, but there are concerns that an infected person could make their way from DRC to nearby Uganda and turn this into an international crisis. The World Health Organization declined to declare the current Ebola outbreak a global health emergency on April 12, largely because the viral disease had not spread outside of the DRC. At that point, 1,206 people had been infected and 764 people had been killed.
“It’s remarkable it hasn’t spread more geographically but the numbers are frightening and the fact that they are going up is terrifying,” Farrar said.
Aside from its 66 percent fatality rate, the latest outbreak is scary in some unique ways. Children, for instance, are being especially hard hit, with almost a third of cases hitting children under the age of 18.