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story.lead_photo.caption FILE - In this Sunday, Sept 9, 2018 file photo, a health worker sprays disinfectant on his colleague after working at an Ebola treatment center in Beni, eastern Congo. The World Health Organization says Ebola deaths in Congo's latest outbreak are expected to exceed 1,000 later on Friday, May 3, 2019. WHO's emergencies chief made the announcement at a news conference in Geneva. The Ebola outbreak that was declared in eastern Congo in August is already the second deadliest outbreak in history, and efforts to control it have been complicated by a volatile security situation and deep community mistrust. (AP Photo/Al-hadji Kudra Maliro, File)

KINSHASA, Congo -- More than 1,000 people have died from Ebola in eastern Congo since August, the country's health minister said Friday, as hostility toward health workers continues to hamper efforts to contain the second-deadliest outbreak of the virus.

Health Minister Oly Ilunga said four deaths in the outbreak's epicenter of Katwa helped push the death toll to 1,008. Two more deaths were reported in the city of Butembo.

The outbreak declared almost nine months ago already had caused the most deaths behind the 2014-2016 outbreak in West Africa's Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia that killed more than 11,000 people.

A volatile security situation and deep community mistrust have hampered efforts to control the epidemic in eastern Congo. Ebola treatment centers have come under repeated attack, leaving government health officials to staff clinics in the hotspots of Butembo and Katwa.

International aid organizations stopped their work in the two communities because of the violence. A Cameroonian epidemiologist working with the World Health Organization was killed last month during an assault on a hospital in Butembo.

Insecurity has become a "major impediment" to controlling the Ebola outbreak, Michael Ryan, WHO's health emergencies chief, told reporters in Geneva earlier Friday.

He said 119 attacks have been recorded since January, 42 of them directed at health facilities, while 85 health workers have been wounded or killed. Dozens of rebel groups operate in the region.

"Every time we have managed to regain control over the virus and contain its spread, we have suffered major, major security events," Ryan said.

WHO has said the most recent Ebola outbreak remained contained to eastern Congo even as the number of cases rises in a dense, highly mobile population near the border with Uganda and Rwanda.

Many people fear going to Ebola treatment centers, choosing instead to stay at home and risk transmitting the disease to caretakers and neighbors.

Residents of highly volatile Butembo believe Ebola was brought to the city on purpose, said Vianney Musavuli, 24.

"The problem is that people here in this area believe Ebola is a political thing, and that's why residents are still attacking the teams in retaliation," Musavuli said.

Insecurity also has prevented vaccination teams from getting to some areas. Still, more than 109,000 people have received an experimental but effective Ebola vaccine. Ryan said authorities are looking at introducing another one.

He called for more help from Congo and elsewhere to close an "urgent, critical gap" of some $54 million in containment funding.

Information for this article was contributed by Jamey Keaten and Al-hadji Kudra Maliro of The Associated Press.

A Section on 05/04/2019

Print Headline: Ebola kills 1,008 people amid Congo violence

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