Ebola outbreak in east Congo now world's second biggest

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Health workers hope that the first multi-drug Ebola treatment trial, announced by DR Congo's health ministry on Monday, will help to contain this and future outbreaks.

"We can assume that the suspected Ebola cases to be triaged would at least go down by half", Hoyer told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Because the data collected in the North Kivu epidemic is unlikely to be sufficient for a complete study, the country's health ministry said the clinical trial may extend over a five-year period to cover Ebola outbreaks in other countries.

Attacks by rebel groups and open hostility by some wary locals have posed serious challenges that Ebola workers say they have never faced before. Many venture out on critical virus containment missions only accompanied by United Nations peacekeepers in areas where gunfire echoes daily.

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Given the complications, this Ebola outbreak will last at least another six months before it can be contained, World Health Organization emergencies chief Dr. Peter Salama has predicted.

Late Thursday, the World Health Organization declared this outbreak second only to the devastating West Africa one that killed more than 11,000 people from 2014 to 2016.

Despite facing resistance from people who don't want health workers treating them, the government has managed to vaccinate more than 27,000 people.

Testing of four experimental Ebola drugs have begun. But it has drawn concern to areas that are virtually inaccessible because of the threat of rebel groups.

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"This tragic milestone clearly demonstrates the complexity and severity of the outbreak", Michelle Gayer, Senior Director of Emergency Health at the International Rescue Committee said in a statement.

This is the 10th Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in DRC since 1976, accounting for almost half off all outbreaks.

In the Journal of the American Medical Association, one group stated, as quoted in the report, that the USA government weeks ago ordered all Centers for Disease Control and Prevention personnel, considered "some of the world's most experienced outbreak experts", from Congo's outbreak zone because of security concerns.

Having started on August 1, it is the 10th outbreak in the country since the disease, which causes extreme fever, bleeding and diarrhoea, was first discovered there 42 years ago.

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"Our country is struck with Ebola outbreaks too often, which also means we have unique expertise in combating it", he said.

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