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Congo: 4 Ebola patients missing after 2nd clinic attack

DAKAR, Senegal (AP) – Four Ebola patients in Congo were missing after intruders attacked a treatment center run by Doctors Without Borders for the second time in four days, the Congo's Health Ministry said Thursday.

Unknown assailants burned tents and other equipment Wednesday at the center of treatment in the eastern city of Butembo. Assailants also set fire Sunday to another eastern Congo clinic Doctors Without Borders operates in Katwa, killing one person and injuring another, according to the minister and the medical aid group.

The latest violence has intensified fears that communities will continue to resist efforts to stop the country's 10th Ebola outbreak. Health workers in eastern Congo have struggled to win the trust of residents in attack by armed groups vying for control of the mineral-rich region.

The Health Ministry said 32 of the 38 people being treated for suspected cases of Ebola fled during Wednesday's attack, while eight of the 12 patients with confirmed cases remained in bed. Patients who have been located since the violence were transferred temporarily to another treatment center.

Authorities are searching for the four missing patients confirmed to have Ebola, who are highly infectious, the minister said.

The humanitarian organization Mercy Corps has personnel in Congo's North Kivu working on infection prevention and control. The group's Congo director, Jean-Philippe Marcoux, called the recent clinic attacks "abhorrent," but said he thinks "it would be too easy to blame them on insecurity and violent groups within communities.

"Instead, we should look at how Ebola response in eastern DRC has been managed," Marcoux said. "Building community acceptance and securing trust has not been given the same weight treatment, and we are continuing to see the consequences: abounds and case numbers rise."

The Ebola outbreak declared in August is the second largest in terms of cases and deaths behind the one in West Africa that killed more than 11,300 people during 2014-2016.

Since the outbreak was declared in Congo's North Kivu province in August, there have been 879 houses, of which 814 are confirmed, along with 488 confirmed Ebola deaths.

The World Health Organization said in an update issued Thursday there was a "high proportion" of people with Ebola dying in the community, suggesting that those with the lethal disease were avoiding clinics. The U.N. The health agency also acknowledged that only a small number of new cases were previously known by authorities, meaning officials are unable to track where Ebola is spreading.

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