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Democratic Republic of Congo Sees A Recent Surge In Ebola Infections

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, there's been a recent surge in Ebola infections. The number of new cases has jumped from about 30 per week to more than 70 this past week. And the total number of people who've contracted Ebola now tops 1,100. NPR's Nurith Aizenman reports.

NURITH AIZENMAN, BYLINE: Officials at the World Health Organization say they've been expecting this spike ever since about a month ago. That's when rebel militias and criminal gangs launched a series of attacks on Ebola centers. Dr. Ibrahima Soce Fall is WHO's assistant director-general for emergency response. He says burial teams had to suspend operations.

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IBRAHIMA SOCE FALL: ...Were not able to protect people from infected bodies.

AIZENMAN: Health workers had difficulty getting out to do vaccinations.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

FALL: People who are at risk were not able to be protected by vaccinations.

AIZENMAN: That's Fall speaking at a press conference earlier this week. He called in from the outbreak zone. He says all the treatment centers have now been reopened with beefed-up security. But after years of civil conflict, many people in the outbreak zone don't trust Congo's government and, by extension, health workers. In response, says Fall, there's now an aggressive outreach effort.

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FALL: We listen to local populations to understand their problems and how the international community can help them.

AIZENMAN: That means focusing on more than just Ebola - providing basic infrastructure like a clean water supply and school buildings, and when it comes to tackling Ebola, hiring people directly from each locality to be part of the response team. Nurith Aizenman, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.