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WHO Says Ebola May Spread From Congo To Neighboring Uganda

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The World Health Organization has reclassified the alert level for the risk of Ebola escaping out of the Democratic Republic of Congo as "very high."

Worsening Conditions

The violence caused by the local militia is one of the major factors that led to the recent reassessment. Efforts being made to contain the outbreak have largely been impeded because of rebel attacks, particularly in the area of Beni. Civil society organizations have announced a week of mourning in response to the violence that has killed more than 20.

Beni has 33 confirmed and probable case of Ebola, making it one of the most heavily impacted areas in the region. It is the base for anti-Ebola operations by the WHO.

The violence has also displaced more than a million people, according to the estimates of the United Nation High Commissioner for Refugees. This movement is causing concern for health workers, especially when infected people move into areas that are challenging — if not impossible — to access.

WHO said that rumors and misinformation have also contributed to the geographical spread of the outbreak. The local politicians who are exploiting the fear surrounding the outbreak and urging people to distrust the national government is causing infected people to not go to health centers or leave health centers to seek alternative care.

"That resistance, driven by quite natural fear of this terrifying disease, is starting to be exploited by local politicians, and we're very concerned in the run up to elections, projected for December, that exploitation... will gather momentum and make it very difficult to root out the last cases of Ebola," said Peter Salama, head of emergency response.

According to health workers, these responses are posing a risk of infecting relatives and communities.

Ebola Outbreak In DR Congo Threatens Uganda

The risk of Ebola spreading around the world is still low, but health workers are continuously observing Congo's neighboring countries. Two new cases have recently been reported in a Congolese fishing village near the border of Uganda.

So far, there have been three outbreaks of Ebola in Uganda since 2000. Uganda's Ministry of Health said it will start a vaccination campaign as soon as cases have been detected in the country.

Rwanda and South Sudan are located in the affected areas in the northeastern provinces of Congo. WHO continues to do what they can to contain the outbreak of Ebola in Congo. Response teams are adopting preventive measures to avoid the virus to spread to new areas.

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