A few weeks before an attack on an Ebola treatment center in the DRC’s North Kivu province last month, a message was circulating on WhatsApp: “If you go to the doctor, you risk contracting Ebola through the medicine you’re given. The doctor and the response team are there to exterminate people.”
The findings underscore the practical implications of mistrust and misinformation for outbreak control. These factors are associated with low compliance with messages of social and behavioural change and refusal to seek formal medical care or accept vaccines, which in turn increases the risk of spread of Ebola virus disease..
While premeditated attacks on treatment centers have been attributed to armed groups, there have also been a series of spontaneous assaults on health workers. These stem from a deep distrust towards those in the response, and a lack of understanding of what Ebola is.
The DRC is a very large country and these cases are so far confined to the eastern part of the country. This is also the region of the Democratic Republic of Congo that has long been mired in conflict and insecurity. In recent weeks, Ebola treatment centers have been attacked forcing medical staff to suspend operations. Meanwhile, new Ebola cases are confirmed on a nearly daily basis.
Eastern parts of Democratic Republic of Congo are struggling to contain the second worst outbreak of Ebola virus in history. Congo's neighbors are on high alert.
Militants attacked an Ebola treatment center in the Democratic Republic of Congo, killing a police officer as the nation battles a growing epidemic that has killed hundreds.
Epidemiologists say recent data from the World Health Organization (WHO) suggest the virus is spreading undetected. During the last three weeks of February, 43percent of the people who died from Ebola in Katwa and Butembo were found dead in their communities — not isolated in hospitals in the late stages of the illness, when the disease is most infectious.
Until the 2014 Ebola epidemic in West Africa, Ebola outbreaks had been sporadic, small, and largely confined to isolated rural villages in Central Africa. But the 2014 epidemic broke all the rules and killed more than 15,000 people; since then, more outbreaks have been reaching larger urban centers, sometimes resulting in uncontrolled spread.
Since the beginning of the year, more than 40 per cent of new cases are people who died of Ebola in the communities. At the epicenter of the epidemic, in Katwa and Butembo, 43 per cent of patients in the last three weeks were still being infected without known links to other cases.
The response is being compounded by mistrust from the community who resent the influx of both national and international responders. There are also high levels of movement both inside and outside the country with experts fearing the spread of the disease beyond DRC's borders.