Doctors fighting Ebola in the Congo are forced to wear disguises to avoid being SHOT by militiamen

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Doctors fighting an Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo are being forced to wear disguises in case they’re attacked by militiamen.

Health workers are ditching their scrubs and wearing plain clothes in an effort to conceal their identities and avoid conflict.

Others are riding on motorbikes that blend into traffic instead of medical jeeps that could draw attention to them.

‘Our staff has to lie about being doctors in order to treat people,’ Tariq Riebel, emergency response director for the International Rescue Committee (IRC), told The Washington Post. 

The Congo is currently facing the second deadliest outbreak of the killer virus ever, with the death toll climbing to 1,161 on Thursday.

The infection count, meanwhile, has shot to 1,760, Congo’s Ministry of Health said. 

Armed militiamen believe Ebola is a conspiracy against them and have repeatedly attacked health workers battling the epidemic. 

There have been 119 attacks this year against aid workers, with eighty-five being wounded or killed, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). 

It comes as aid groups warn they could run out of money in weeks.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said that unless it gets more funding it won’t be able to continue providing support to crews burying Ebola victims. 

Funerals were a major source of virus transmission during the worst ever Ebola epidemic in 2014-2016.

Each Ebola burial costs the equivalent of £400 for, among other things, the protective gear for workers.

The Congo Ebola epidemic has escalated sharply over the past month.

The health ministry says 20 per cent of all cases since August have been reported in just the last three weeks.

Health experts warn that because of security issues it has been difficult getting into some areas to vaccinate those most at risk.

Last month an attack on a hospital in Butembo killed a Cameroonian epidemiologist working for the World Health Organization (WHO).  

The WHO said a surge in cases showed the current strategy of vaccinating those known to be directly exposed to the virus was no longer working.

More than 111,000 people have already received the protective jab, through a so-called ring vaccination approach.

But this has not proved enough to stop the highly contagious virus from spreading in regions of DRC wracked with insecurity.

Health workers have implemented a ‘ring’ strategy, vaccinating anyone directly exposed to known cases of Ebola, and a second ring of those exposed to people in the first ring. 

‘The number of new cases continues to rise, in part due to repeated incidents of violence affecting the ability of response teams to immediately identify and create vaccination rings around all people at risk of contracting Ebola,’ the WHO said in a statement. 

WHO experts have suggested giving the vaccine to entire neighbourhoods and villages where cases have been reported within the past 21 days.  

Last week experts warned the outbreak in the Congo could end up as disastrous as the West Africa epidemic of 2014.

Dr Osman Dar, a global health expert at Chatham House and member of the Royal College of Physicians Edinburgh and Public Health England, said the death toll could spiral to rival the 11,310 who were killed in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone five years ago, he said. 

On April 28, the Congo experienced its most devastating outbreak so far, with a record 27 cases diagnosed in a single day.

Dr Dar told MailOnline a lack of security where the outbreak is happening is the ‘key issue’ facing the organisations trying to stop it.

The 2014 outbreak in West Africa began when an 18-month-old boy in Guinea got infected by a bat in December 2013, and the illness quickly spread to neighbouring countries.

By the time the World Health Organization released its first situation report in August 2014, more than 3,000 people had been infected and 1,546 killed.

A year later the number of cases had rocketed to 28,073 and 11,290 people had died.   

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