Three people being treated for Ebola at a hospital in the Democratic Republic of the Congo escaped the facility’s isolation unit and two later died, the World Health Organization said Friday.
WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said the sickened people wanted to be with their families “in what could be the last moments of life.”
“It is very unfortunate that people fled the treatment center, but it is not unexpected. We had this in previous outbreaks,” he said.
Earlier this month, the DRC declared a new outbreak of the Ebola virus after 17 people died of the viral hemorrhagic fever.
Latest figures indicate there have been 52 cases of Ebola and 22 confirmed deaths in the northwest region of the country. WHO said there were concerns the disease could spread from the city of Mbandaka to the capital of Kinshasa — as the two cities are directly linked by a river.
After this week’s hospital escape, Jasarevic emphasized the importance for sickened people to seek medical treatment.
“It is really important that we redouble our efforts to engage with the community so that everyone understands how Ebola is being transmitted, and that keeping the sick person at home not only decreases the chances of survival for this person, because this person then is not receiving supportive treatment, but is also putting at risk the whole family,” he said.
WHO: Congo Ebola not a global health emergency
WHO officials said they hope an experimental Ebola vaccine could help stop the spread of the deadly virus. Healthcare workers began administering more than 7,500 doses of the vaccine Monday.
Jasarevic said health officials have inoculated 154 people.
The outbreak began in the remote Equateur province and health officials said it is difficult to keep the vaccine at the optimal temperature during transport to the region.
Christophe Boulierac, a spokesman for the U.N. Children’s Fund — or UNICEF — said the organization is installing hand-washing stations at more than 270 schools to protect vulnerable children from the virus.
The Ebola virus, which has a two- to 21-day incubation period, causes fever, fatigue, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, vomiting, diarrhea, rash, and, in some cases, internal and external bleeding. It can be transmitted from animals to humans and in human-to-human contact, including sexual intercourse.
While there’s no proven treatment specifically for the virus, people can survive through treatment of the symptoms, including oral and intravenous fluids, and immune and drug therapies.
By Danielle Haynes