Fighting attacks on healthcare personnel and representatives of the Congolese army have hampered a global response to the growing outbreak of the Ebola virus in the two eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Global and American health officials said at least two rebel groups are behind three separate attacks on the weekend in the Beni region, a regional trading center in the province of North Kivu. Health officials who responded to the outbreak of the disease were forced to stop efforts to monitor and vaccinate infected viral contacts for several hours.
"It's probably the most difficult context we've ever had to deal with the outbreak of Ebola," said Peter Salama, Deputy Director of the World Health Organization's Emergency and Response Unit, in an interview with Her Hill. "The security situation is really tense and it has been happening for many, many years."
Violence and insecurity in a region where more than a million people have escalated ethnic conflict has detained American retaliation outside the region. After the Augustus attack on the Congolese military base, a number of American workers were pulled out of Beni and surrounding areas.
The Disaster Response Team headed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the US Agency for International Development has been deployed to Kinshasa more than a thousand miles away from the outbreak epicenter. American senior officials said on Wednesday that there are 10 to 15 DART team members in Kinshasa, while another 21 support the United States.
But responding Americans are located in neighboring Uganda, Rwanda and South Sudan, overseeing the border crossing, hoping to prevent the spread of the virus across international borders. The CDC has deployed 94 Americans to these countries and Geneva, where the WHO headquarters is located, to help with the response.
The Congolese Health Ministry announced on Wednesday that there were 339 cases of Ebola virus, so the current outbreak is the worst in the nation's history. Two hundred twelve people have died.
About half of the cases have arrived in Benin, which is about a quarter million people on the border with Uganda. Ten cases also occurred in Butembo, the largest city in the south of Ben, which has close trade links across the border.
Salama said that many cases spread through interactions in private healthcare facilities that do not register in a local municipality and where there are no basic services such as running water and safe needle handling. Only Ben has hundreds of such objects, some of which are located in private homes.
"Most of the broadcasts, in our opinion, take place in private health care facilities," said Salama.
Salama said that about 30 healthcare workers were infected during the outbreak.
Senior American officials on Wednesday's conference call do not rule out the deployment of US troops to a region where security appears to be the responsibility of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo or MONUSCO.
However, the deployment of American troops, as well as almost 3,000, sent to Liberia to combat the outbreak of Ebola in 2014 is unlikely. The Americans sent to Liberia were acting in support of and not in safety, and America has much closer ties with Liberia, which it helped discover in the 19th century, than the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Some public health officials worried last week when CDC director Robert Redfield at the Capitol Hill conference said that the difficulties associated with the current outbreak could lead to the introduction of Ebola in the Congo basin over the coming years. Later, Redfield said he was sounding at worst, not suggesting that the outbreak would escape control.
"We do not believe that the outbreak of Ebola is currently unrestricted. In fact, it has been limited in many health areas and health areas," Salama said. "We believe it to be durable, but it is based on intense increases."
For the third time in the North Kivu region, a new vaccine developed by the National Institute of Health and manufactured by the pharmaceutical giant Merck is located. The vaccine has been given to more than 29,500 people, mostly healthcare workers, and those who come into contact with an Ebola virus infected process, known as call bite vaccination.
"This outbreak will take many weeks, so we need to be in the medium term," Salama said.