Entries in Congo (2)


Ebola Death Toll Climbs in Congo

Hemera/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The death toll from the Ebola virus has doubled within a week in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the outbreak may continue spreading, the World Health Organization cautioned on Thursday.

The Ministry of Health has confirmed 18 deaths among 41 cases of the highly contagious virus.

“Up to 90 percent of those who are infected may die,” said Tarik Jasarevic, a spokesman for the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland. “That’s why every outbreak is serious.”

Outbreaks tend to be localized because victims of the virus are generally too ill to travel, so the risk of exposure in the United States is extremely unlikely, Jasarevic said.

Reaching epidemic levels in northeastern Congo, the Ebola virus has stricken people in the towns of Isiro and Viadana in Orientale province, which borders southern Sudan and northern Uganda.

Its incubation – the time between infection and appearance of symptoms – lasts between two and 21 days. Death can occur within a few days.

“The incubation period can be long,” Jasarevic said. “But once you start showing symptoms, it goes very fast.”

Onset of illness may manifest in the form of fever, headache, joint and muscle aches, sore throat and weakness. Other early symptoms, such as red eyes and a skin rash, are nonspecific to the virus and can be present in diseases that occur much more commonly, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The illness progresses quickly to diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain, impairment of kidney and liver function, and internal and external bleeding, which is why it is also called “hemorrhagic fever.”

Ebola outbreaks have been documented since 1976. In addition to the Congo, they have struck in Uganda this year. In other years, outbreaks have occurred in Sudan, Gabon and the Ivory Coast.

In collaborating with the World Health Organization, the CDC has developed practical, hospital-based guidelines for infection control in the African health care setting.

The manual recommends using common and low-cost supplies, such as household bleach, water, cotton cloth and plastic sheeting to curb infection. It is available in English, French and Portuguese.

Anyone – from the very young to the very old – can be infected with Ebola.

The virus is first transmitted from animals to humans, typically by hunters who kill primates in the jungle and then consume infected meat, Jasarevic said. Carriers of the virus can infect others through bodily fluids, including saliva, sweat, nasal drip and blood.

There is no standard treatment and no vaccine. Patients receive supportive therapy to balance their fluids and electrolytes, control blood pressure and oxygen levels, and manage any infections that may occur, according to the CDC.

Researchers do not know why a small percentage of people recover from Ebola while others do not. Those who die usually have not developed a significant immune response to the virus.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Nearly Every Minute a Woman is Raped in the Congo

Tom Stoddart/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- By the time you finish reading this article, five women in the Congo will have been raped.

In what Secretary of State Hillary Clinton calls "the worst example of man's inhumanity towards women," a study reveals a violent war against women happening within the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The "Estimates and Determinants of Sexual Violence Against Women in the Democratic Republic of Congo" study, slated to be published in the Journal of Public Health in June, estimates that 1,150 women are raped every day -- a rate which equates to 48 rapes every hour.

"The scale of violence is much bigger than we thought," Lisa Shannon, founder of the human rights advocacy group A Thousand Sisters told ABC News. "It is no longer strictly a weapon of war because of the breakdown of government -- the cultural impunity has metastasized and the epidemic is no longer contained. We now know high levels of sexual violence exist even in non-conflict areas."

The DRC has been politically unstable since its founding. For the past 15 years, eastern Congo has seen a series of rebel groups terrorizing citizens, often as a show of power to exploit the country's mineral riches.

United Nations officials have described the Congo as the epicenter of rape being utilized as a weapon of war.

The Congo, which is the size of the U.S. east of the Mississippi River, is cut off by thick forest and is characterized by the widest interstate war in modern African history, making surveying sexual violence dangerous and difficult. In addition, many rape victims are frightened to report the crime.

Although the United States government pledged $17 million in 2009 to help fight the epidemic of rape, progress has not been seen on the ground. The study found the rape rate to be 26 times higher than regularly quoted by the United Nations.

According to aid workers there are institutional problems with combating the epidemic of rape in the Congo. The biggest problem: rapists are not brought to justice.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio