The Democratic Republic of Congo's devastating Ebola outbreak is the second-biggest in history, but experts are now saying it's out of control and could end up rivaling the worst epidemic ever, which devastated three west African countries between 2013 and 2016. More than 1,600 people in the conflict-ridden North Kivu province have been infected since the outbreak began last August, and over the last month, cases are increasing at the fastest pace so far, the Guardian reports. Aid organizations are also struggling to deal with the public health crisis amid violence in the region; the International Rescue Committee says making progress against the disease is impossible in the current climate, and a director for Mercy Corps says there is a real possibility the outbreak will spread to neighboring Rwanda or Uganda.
"Whether it gets to the absolute scale of west Africa or not, none of us know, but this is massive in comparison with any other outbreak in the history of Ebola and it is still expanding," says the head of another humanitarian group that has called for a ceasefire so health teams can do the work that is needed. "It’s remarkable it hasn’t spread more geographically but the numbers are frightening and the fact that they are going up is terrifying." He says a six- to nine-month ceasefire is needed. There have been multiple violent attacks on health teams and facilities, including one just this week, and doctors have threatened to go on strike if the attacks continue. More than 1,000 people, most of them women and children, have died in the outbreak so far, giving it a higher fatality rate than other outbreaks have seen at 67%. (The WHO named Ebola one of its top 10 threats.)