City in Congo's Ebola outbreak attacked by militia; 8 dead

City in Congo's Ebola outbreak attacked by militia; 8 dead

GOMA, Democratic Republic of Congo, May 8 (Reuters) - Heavy fighting between the army and local militiamen in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo's Ebola-stricken city of Butembo killed at least nine people on Wednesday, the mayor said.

However, rVSV-ZEBOV-GP vaccine - which has been the vaccine used throughout the outbreak - will continue to be offered to health workers, front-line workers, and "those at higher risk" of contracting Ebola, including contacts, and contacts of contacts. Attacks on Ebola health centers already have forced Doctors Without Borders and other worldwide aid organizations to leave.

"We know that vaccination is saving lives in this outbreak", World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in the statement.

More than 1,000 people have died from the virus - the second deadliest outbreak on record after the epidemic that killed 11,300 people in West Africa in 2014-2016. "It disrupts our operations, and when operations are disrupted, the virus gets a free ride".

A toxic mix of mistrust, politics, and conflict has made it especially hard to control the outbreak in Butembo and nearby Katwa in North Kivu province. Many people are now reportedly staying away from treatment centres even if they have symptoms.

A large share of new cases are now occurring in people who were not known contacts of earlier patients, and the disease is spreading to areas where it is impossible to trace contacts and swiftly vaccinate them.

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"I will work with the teams to ensure the recommendations are implemented as soon as possible", said Professor Jean-Jacques Muyembe, director-general of Congo's National Institute for Biomedical Research.

Mwalimu was reacting to a marked increase of death toll from the Ebola epidemic in DRC in recent days.

The WHO experts also suggested cutting the doses given of the vaccine, insisting lower doses were equally efficient.

As part of a campaign initiated in 2018, a number of 111,920 people were vaccinated against Ebola.

Part of this mistrust has come from rumours spread on social media sites that the disease isn't real or that treatment centres will only make people sicker.

Almost 90 people are being treated for the disease, while 439 have recovered from the virus. "We think it is more of a plan to eliminate the local population".

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