JOHANNESBURG — Global health experts are urging the Trump administration to allow U.S. government disease specialists – “some of the world’s most experienced” – to return to northeastern Congo to help fight the second-largest Ebola outbreak in history.

The U.S. experts have been sidelined for weeks, ordered away from the region because of State Department security concerns. Two top medical journals this week published commentaries calling on the U.S. to change its mind and send them back where they are sorely needed.

This Ebola outbreak is like no other because health workers have compared the region to a war zone. Dozens of armed rebel groups are active, and their deadly attacks have forced responders to pause crucial Ebola containment work for days. Many new cases have been unrelated to known infections, alarming evidence that gaps in tracking the disease remain.

Late Thursday, the World Health Organization declared this outbreak second only to the devastating West Africa one that killed more than 11,000 people from 2014 to 2016. Congo’s health ministry said the number of confirmed and probable Ebola cases has reached 426, edging past the Uganda outbreak in 2000. So far this outbreak has 198 confirmed deaths and 47 probable ones.

“It is in U.S. national interests to control outbreaks before they escalate into a crisis,” one group of global health experts wrote in a commentary in the Journal of the American Medical Association. A separate one in the New England Journal of Medicine said: “Given the worsening of the outbreak, we believe it’s essential that these security concerns be addressed and that CDC staff return to the field.”

It is not clear how many Centers for Disease Control and Prevention workers are now trying to tackle the outbreak from Congo’s capital, Kinshasa, which is nearly 1,000 miles away.

A State Department official said that CDC experts – and those with the U.S. Agency for International Development, who are also affected by the order – are still working closely with international partners to stop the outbreak.

Teams with the WHO and Congo’s health ministry venture out on virus containment missions accompanied by U.N. peacekeepers or other armed security in areas where gunfire echoes daily.