YAOUNDE, Cameroon 

Ebola outbreak in the western part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is of grave concern as cases reach 100 in less than 100 days, the regional director of the World Health Organization (WHO) for Africa said on Friday.

In a statement, the UN health agency said, the outbreak has since spread to 11 of the 17 health zones in the DRC’s Equateur province.

Of 100 cases reported so far, 96 are confirmed and four are probable and 43 people have lost their lives, it added.

“With 100 Ebola cases in less than 100 days, the outbreak in Equateur province is evolving in a concerning way,” said Matshidiso Moeti, the regional director of WHO for Africa.

“The virus is spreading across a wide and rugged terrain which requires costly interventions and with COVID-19 draining resources and attention, it is hard to scale-up operations,” she added.

“Without extra support, the teams on the ground will find it harder to get ahead of the virus,” Moeti said. “COVID-19 is not the only emergency needing robust support. As we know from our recent history, we ignore Ebola at our peril.”

The statement said the WHO and its partners have helped to screen more than 640,000 people across 40 points of control in the Central African country that were set up to help keep travelers safe when crossing into an affected area.

“The WHO has also worked to raise awareness about Ebola among nearly 774,000 people in the affected communities on how to recognize symptoms and seek treatment,” it added.

This latest outbreak, the 11th in the DRC, was declared on June 1, 2020, in Equateur. A cluster of cases was initially detected in Mbandaka, the provincial capital.

The WHO and the DRC government declared the country free from the 10th outbreak in May.

Starting in North Kivu in August 2018, the epidemic was the second-largest outbreak in the world and particularly challenging as it took place in an active conflict zone. There were 3,470 cases, 2,287 deaths and 1,171 survivors, according to the WHO.

Ebola, a tropical fever that first appeared in 1976 in Sudan and the DRC, is transmitted to humans from wild animals.

The disease caused a global alarm in 2014, when the world’s worst outbreak began in West Africa, killing more than 11,300 people, and infecting an estimated 28,600 as it swept through Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone.

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