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Second Deadliest Congo Ebola Outbreak Hits Recorded 600 Cases

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Colorized transmission electron micrograph of an Ebola virus. The Democratic Republic of Congo has reported 600 cases of Ebola since an outbreak was declared in the country last year. Fear of Ebola spreading to neighboring countries was heightened after hundreds of Congolese had sought refuge in Uganda.  ( CDC Global | Flickr )

Over 600 cases of Ebola have been reported across the Democratic Republic of Congo, a country that is already suffering from political conflict.

Ebola Outbreak In Congo Continues To Rage

As of Wednesday, Jan. 2, the Ministry of Health revealed that the total number of probable patients sick with Ebola rose to 608, with an additional 29 people who are still under observation. So far, 368 people have died from the disease, putting the fatality rate to about 60 percent.

The ministry, which published a report this week, also revealed that 207 people have recovered from the disease.

The Ebola outbreak has been raging in Congo since August last year. It is tagged as the second-deadliest and the second-largest Ebola outbreak in history, which was topped only by the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa that killed more than 10,000 people.

North Kivu remains to be the epicenter of the outbreak, according to the World Health Organization. Surrounding provinces, including the neighboring Ituri, also reported cases of Ebola.

Among those affected by the outbreak are health care workers who have traveled to the region to help care for the sick. The University of Nebraska Medical Center reported on Wednesday that they are monitoring an American who was exposed to the Ebola virus while providing medical assistance in Congo.

"This person may have been exposed to the virus but is not ill and is not contagious," stated Ted Cieslak, an infectious diseases specialist. "Should any symptoms develop, the Nebraska Medicine/UNMC team is among the most qualified in the world to deal with them."

Congolese Flee To Uganda Amid Political Turmoil

The recent presidential election has also raised concerns over the possibility of the cross-border spread of Ebola as hundreds of refugees fled to Uganda. A spokeswoman for the Red Cross revealed that dozens of people have been arriving in Uganda since Sunday, Dec. 30.

Some Congolese, however, who have been seeking refuge in Uganda were forced to turn back after refusing to undergo screening for Ebola.

The Associated Press reported that the WHO has already asked suppliers for a more experimental vaccine to prevent the further spread of Ebola. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, head of the international public health agency, is hopeful that the outbreak will be "brought under control as soon as possible."

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