Ebola: ramping up slowly

The situation in north-eastern Congo, where a major Ebola outbreak is in progress, is slowly getting worse.  The vaccination of tens of thousands of people at risk is helping slow its spread, but the numbers don’t look good.

In a bulletin on Thursday, the health ministry outlined the growth of the Ebola outbreak.

“Since the start of the epidemic, the total number of cases is 715, including 666 confirmed and 49 probable. In all, there have been 443 deaths” in the provinces of North Kivu and Ituri, the ministry said.

DR Congo, formerly Zaire, has seen 10 outbreaks of the highly contagious haemorrhagic disease since it was first identified in 1976 near the Ebola river in the northwest of the country.

The latest outbreak was declared on August 1 in the region of Beni, a major market town in North Kivu, and quickly spread to neighbouring Ituri province.

The ministry said 248 people have recovered from the Ebola virus, while “236 suspect cases” were under investigation — down one from the previous bulletin on January 15.

There’s more at the link.

If the number of confirmed cases is correct, the death rate is 66.5%, while if the probable cases are also included, it’s 62%.  The recovery rate is 37.2% or 34.7%, ditto.  Basically, two out of three people who contract Ebola in the Congo are dying of it.

Nor are the total numbers reassuring.  As I’ve written before, I know that area.  I’ll bet a year of my income to a day of yours that the actual totals are very significantly higher than the “official” figures.  I won’t be at all surprised to hear that there have actually been ten times that number of infections, most of them contracted by people in the bush who didn’t report to medical facilities to ask for treatment.  Part of that’s the fear of anything “official” – the people there have learned to distrust the authorities.  Part of it’s the stigma of being diagnosed with Ebola, because you’ll be ostracized by your family, friends and tribe – sometimes forever – for being a carrier.  Part of it’s sheer physical weakness, because many won’t try to get help at the first sign of infection, but will try to carry on as long as they can.  By the time they realize the problem’s more serious than just a cold or the flu, it may be too late for them to seek help, because they may be too weak to reach a place where it’s available.  Finally, if someone dies of Ebola in the bush, they won’t be recorded as an “official” victim.  Those who knew them will flee, fearful of catching the disease, and even more fearful of being forcibly quarantined while they wait to find out whether they’re infected, too.  It’s a no-win situation for all concerned.

I continue to believe that the Ebola outbreak in Congo is far from contained.  Heroic measures from medical teams may have slowed its progress, but it’s still spreading.  If the vaccine (which is in limited supply) runs out, or if enough people carrying the virus flee to other centers where it can spread unchecked . . . we’ll have a nightmare on our hands.  I’m not exaggerating.  This is a very serious outbreak, and it’s poised on a knife-edge right now.  Let’s hope the medical teams in the area can prevent it sliding off on the wrong side.



  1. In a place like the eastern Congo, you can be assured that the Ebola outbreak is not contained. The time to worry for those of us in the West is when it makes its way to Nairobi or any other major city with direct flights off the continent.

  2. Not to put too fine of point to it. But it is worth remembering that the Nigerian government took sensible measures, like closing their western border, to help contain the 2014 outbreak. It is not a stretch to say that the Nigerian government official acted more intelligently than our own did at the time. Everyone on these alt-right blogs talk about how low IQ African people have. In this particular case, they seemed to have higher IQ than our own leaders. Go figure.

  3. I spent about 10 years flying missionaries throughout that region, specifically, I've been to Bunia and Beni multiple times, and a number of the surrounding villages. Peter is spot on. Uganda, however, even given how bad Museveni is knows how to deal with such outbreaks. They've had a good track record with it in the past. So I don't see Uganda letting it spread east.

    Getting it contained, getting it dealt with… Maybe. Probably it will burn it self out in time. The toll from that will be horrible. The region is desperately poor. The gov't is HUGELY corrupt and totally incompetent. If I was still flying over there I'd be pretty nervous about working in the area.

  4. The death rate is more like 75%. And both WHO and Wikipedia know this, but are trying TO lipstick up that pig.

    Look at how many people are dead today.
    Then look how many people had it 21 days ago.
    It doesn't kill instantly.
    Using that basic and obvious correction gets you numbers between 75% and 80%, forever, in every outbreak.
    And treatment for the infected there there is always "palliative".

    Oh, and in this one, they don't know the infected or dead in one huge swath of Kivu province.
    That would be the one where the armed militias have chased out survey, treatment, and contract-tracing teams; where the civilians have burned the treatment centers; and where the scared and angry families have broken in, to steal Grandpa's Ebola-infected corpse, for a good old traditional Muslim let's-all-rub-the-infected-body-with-our-bare-hands funeral preparation.

    Africa Wins Again.

    Vaccinations of >60,000 is the only thing that's kept a partial lid on this so far, but it's blown through every vaccination ring they've tried. And the latest cases are 50 miles beyond where it was last month.

    The ripples are spreading outward, inexorably, towards major metropolii, the ones with international airports.

    And when the first case hits London, Paris, Atlanta, or NYFC – like they will – the media headless chicken panic-fest will begin here in earnest.

    Just like in 2014.

    Pleasant dreams.


  5. No.
    Because if it failed, that'd be stupid, and if it works, they can never make enough vaccine to matter in a pandemic. (And FTR, the current experimental vaxx is showing a 0% failure rate.)

    So you're only making money in marginal outbreaks, which isn't the problem.

    In a global pandemic, you'd be better off taking that investment capital and investing in canned goods (including the goods that come in green ammo cans) and barbed wire.

    And in this small (so far) outbreak, they've already burned through 1/2 to 2/3rds of their stock of vaccine.

    In another month or two, they'll have used it all, and then this outbreak explodes. (IDK what the small monthly manufacturing capacity is, but it ain't anything to write home about. This stuff takes months to make, for a disease that doubles every 21 days in freefall.)

    And at that point, the only people getting it will be those working amidst the disease: doctors, nurses, support staff, etc.
    I might get some, but you won't, and neither will either of our families.

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