The World Health Organisation (WHO) says no fewer than 135 people have been killed by the Ebola virus outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
The global health agency also said that total cases of 211 had been recorded, comprising 176 confirmed cases and 35 probable cases.
On Friday afternoon, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in the DRC, Leila Zerrougui, had said a Beni-based UN colleague had tested positive for Ebola and was now receiving the necessary medical treatment.
Medical officials reported that the patient was feeling well and that his progress was satisfactory, while co-workers who had had contact with him would receive appropriate support and follow-up.
Following the rising incidences of infection, WHO has called an Emergency Committee meeting on the Ebola virus outbreak on Wednesday in Geneva.
WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, said the agency had assessed the national and regional risk of the current Ebola outbreak in DRC as “very high”.
Ghebreyesus said while the global risk remained low, so far, the UN health watchdog has not called for any trade or travel restrictions to be imposed.
The crisis meeting would decide whether or not the outbreak constituted a public health emergency of international concern, and what recommendations should be made to manage the spread of the disease.
This outbreak, the 10th to hit the DRC over the last four decades, was declared in North Kivu Province on Aug. 1.
However, based on the worsening security situation in and around the city of Beni, WHO elevated the risk from “high” to “very high” on Sept. 28.
The UN agency identified 39 new confirmed cases were reported between Oct. 1 and Oct. 11, 32 of which were from Beni.
The DRC Ministry of Health, WHO and other partners have been responding to the outbreak with teams on the ground.
However, WHO has warned that continuing insecurity severely affects both civilians and frontline workers, forcing the suspension of the response for several days in late September.
It said this raised the risk that the virus would continue to spread.
No fewer than 20 civilians in Beni were killed in the incident that provoked the suspension, which came on the heels of multiple attacks in previous weeks.
It was estimated by the UN that more than a million civilians under threat from armed groups are internally-displaced in North Kivu, and around 500,000 in 2018 so far.
WHO continued to warn that the recent spike in violent incidents in the areas was making response more difficult.
It added that it was also increasing the risk of the outbreak spreading within DRC, and to neighbouring countries, especially Rwanda and Uganda.
The agency reported that it has continued to work with all nine neighbouring countries to increase their preparedness.
Meanwhile, the UN Children’s Fund reported that one month after the beginning of the school year, 80 per cent of school-aged children have returned to school.
This was in the Beni and Mabalako health zones, the two epicentres of the Ebola outbreak.
The UN children agency said it had identified more than 1,500 schools in the areas affected by the epidemic.