In an interview Friday, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Robert Redfield told The New York Times that the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo is not under control and could continue for another year.
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Redfield just returned from a visit to the DRC, where he toured a medical center in the city of Butembo that only hours before had been under attack by gunfire, the second such attack the clinic has sustained.
Incidents like that are undermining attempts to dampen the spread of Ebola, which has so far claimed hundreds of lives.
“Let’s not underestimate this outbreak,” he said.
At a news conference last Thursday, World Health Organization Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus took a more optimistic view. He said his goal is to end the outbreak in six months, The Times reported.
The outbreak began in August, and there had been 932 cases and 587 deaths as of Wednesday, according to the World Health Organization.
This is the second largest Ebola outbreak ever. The one in West Africa from 2014 to 2016 was the largest and killed more than 11,000 people, The Times reported.
On Thursday, Redfield told a Senate subcommittee that Congo could run out of Ebola vaccine sometime between May and mid-September. More than 87,000 people have received the vaccine, which is being donated by vaccine maker Merck.
It’s believed that the vaccine has kept the epidemic from becoming even worse, The Times reported.
Merck spokeswoman Pamela Eisele said in an email to The Times that the company could not comment on Redfield’s projections. She added that Merck keeps a stockpile of 300,000 doses, which is topped up whenever doses are used for outbreaks.
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