Many in Congo Do Not Believe Ebola Virus Is Real
Health experts are concerned about Ebola Virus Disease spreading in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Eastern Congo is currently facing the second-deadliest Ebola outbreak in history.
More than 600 people have already died from the disease since last August. Hundreds more are infected.
But a recent study found that one out of four people questioned in eastern Congo last year do not believe the Ebola virus is real. Nearly half said they thought some people were making up the Ebola outbreak in order to gain money or power. Their beliefs are strengthened by the economic and political insecurity in the area.
The study was published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal. It was based on interviews done last September, about a month after the outbreak was first reported.
Beliefs can help spread – or stop – the deadly virus
Researchers say the study showed how people's misguided ideas about Ebola were making it harder to fight the virus.
Ebola is spread through body fluids, so stopping the virus depends on isolating those who are infected. They must be separated from the rest of the population.
But those who did not believe Ebola is real were far less likely to seek help at a treatment center. They were also less likely to agree to an Ebola vaccine.
Eva Erlach is with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. The group has more than 800 trained volunteers working to tell people in eastern Congo how they can prevent the disease.
Erlach called the findings "absolutely interesting," even if the interviews were done more than six months ago. She said they showed the connection between trust and preventive measures.
Tariq Riebl of the International Rescue Committee is currently working in eastern Congo. He said the findings confirm what he and other workers are seeing. As the virus spreads, helping communities take steps to prevent the disease is almost as important as treatment, he said.
Riebl added: "It doesn't matter if you have all the treatment options available because no one is ever arriving to take advantage of that."
I'm Jonathan Evans.