Another person has died of the Ebola virus in the Democratic Republic of Congo, bringing the number of official deaths to 12, according to health officials in the country.
But the U.N.’s World Health Organization said that more than two dozen people have likely died from the virus, adding in its last update a week ago that 58 cases have been confirmed in all.
The latest death, according to the Congolese health ministry, occurred in Iboko, a rural area in northwestern Equateur province, The Associated Press reported on Sunday.
A vaccination campaign is currently ongoing in Mbandaka, where four cases have been confirmed. Around 100 health workers there have been vaccinated.
“I am personally committed to ensuring that we do everything we can to stop this outbreak as soon as possible,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Saturday, AP reported.
Ebola was discovered near the Ebola River, which runs through the Congo. There have been nine outbreaks in the country since it was found in 1976, but getting the word out about the virus has been difficult.
A doctor and a nursing sister were threatened by locals after they were accused of bringing the disease to their communities, while people in one town prevented medics from testing the body of someone suspected to have died from Ebola, officials said, as Reuters reported.
“The information campaign is being put in place but is still insufficient,” Medecins Sans Frontieres’ (MSF) emergency medical coordinator Jean-Clement Cabrol told reporters in Geneva on Thursday.
“Religious and traditional leaders in communities are not being used enough,” he said.
In one of the more alarming developments in the outbreak to date, family members of two Ebola patients removed them from an isolation ward in Mbandaka on Monday night, walking them out of the hospital before putting them on the back of motorcycles.
One was taken to a nearby evangelical church, according to health officials and a source at the church, where she – by now vomiting and unable to walk – joined 19 other people for prayers in a cramped tin-roofed building.
She returned to a hospital before succumbing to the illness the next night. The other patient was taken home, where he died hours later, leaving health officials scrambling to locate their contacts across the city of 1.5 million people.
A witness at the church, who declined to be named, said the woman came to testify that God had cured her of her illness.
“We prayed for her,” he said.
Reuters contributed to this report.
Why is Falun Gong persecuted?
Although it’s freely practiced in over 70 countries, doing this in China can lead to unlawful arrest, imprisonment, torture, or even death.