Congo Ebola cases reach record of most reported in a single day



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The woman spent more than a week at home sick before relatives tried to take her to a treatment center for Ebola in eastern Congo. Before the motorcycle could get to the facility, it was too late.

His crumpled body was leaning against the driver's back as he telephoned worriedly, witnesses said.

Health experts are expressing increasing alarm over the number of people sick with the Ebola virus who never reach treatment centers, allowing the disease to spread to caregivers and countless other people.

Monday set a new record in this outbreak of 27 confirmed cases in a single day, the Congo Ministry of Health said. In the last four days, 93 cases have been confirmed.

The fact that many are dying outside the health care system means that the full scale of the crisis is unknown.

"There may be twice as many cases we are unaware of," said Tariq Riebl, director of emergency response to the ebola response crisis at the International Rescue Committee.

"A very small number are actually showing up at health centers," he said.

The distrust of health professionals, combined with a highly volatile security situation at the epicenter of the epidemic, is putting the response to Ebola at serious risk.

The increase in registered cases was attributed to a series of attacks that hindered the efforts of health professionals to go to affected communities to educate and vaccinate.

On 19 April, a Cameroonian epidemiologist working with the World Health Organization was killed during an attack on a hospital in the town of Butembo. Two other health professionals were injured.

The WHO recognized last week "a remarkable increase in incidents of resistance in the community, mainly around Katwa and Butembo."

The IRC said it had to reduce its screening efforts in these areas as a result. Doctors Without Borders also retired temporarily, leaving the ministry of health to run the treatment centers there.

Health experts have attributed the community's resistance to the fact that eastern Congo has suffered a quarter-century armed conflict, leading to a deep mistrust of government officials now administering treatment centers.

Ebola hotspot voters also were not able to vote in January's presidential election, raising false allegations that Ebola was brought to the region for political gain.

Now, there have been 957 deaths among the 1,466 confirmed and probable cases reported since the outbreak was declared in August, according to WHO.

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