United Nations warns of Ebola 'perfect storm' in DR Congo

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This is the seventh and most deadly attack in the area since the outbreak was first declared in August. He said that Beni was the base for the agency's base for the "entire operation".

Congo's health minister, Dr. Oly Ilunga Kalenga, said that health staff had to only temporarily suspend field activities that required home visits, but otherwise "that all pillars of the response remain fully operational".

Those on lockdown include the teams that distribute vaccinations, those who track family, friends and others who came in contact with those infected, and those who educate the public by working directly with the community.

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Butembo could also declare a "ville morte" in coming days in sympathy with the people of Beni, he said, potentially increasing the chances of the situation deteriorating rapidly.

In addition to many people's fear of Ebola, the World Health Organization senior official explained that the situation was being further complicated by local politicians who "exploited and manipulated" them prior to upcoming elections.

Meanwhile, pre-existing fears and misconceptions about the virus are being exploited by politicians ahead of DRC's highly-contentious December vote, leading to increased mistrust of health workers among the population, Salama added. Health officials have reported 119 confirmed cases, including 69 deaths. "An added complication here is that some of these fighters may have been exposed to Ebola, and yet they'll be even more hard to track down than ordinary civilians".

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Speaking to journalists at the United Nations in Geneva, Dr Salama noted that the worldwide response to the major public health threat had been excellent and that donors have responded "very quickly and generously" to this latest outbreak, which is DRC's tenth since the 1970s.

At the time, the WHO's Peter Salama described it as a "dreaded" scenario.

Various militant and rebel groups have been staging attacks in the area for years but they've stepped up the fighting in recent weeks, making it even harder than it already was to fight the two-month-old outbreak.

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"The ADF in particular has enormous capabilities", Dr Salama said. The Congolese army has blamed the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a notorious rebel militia.