The Democratic Republic of Congo on Monday declared a new Ebola outbreak in the western city of Mbandaka, more than 1,000 km way from an ongoing epidemic of the same virus in the east, AFP reported. This is an added blow as the country is already combating the coronavirus pandemic and the measles epidemic.
Health Minister Eteni Longondo said that the Ebola outbreak has killed four people in Mbandaka. “The National Institute of Biomedical Research has confirmed to me that samples from Mbandaka tested positive for Ebola,” Longondo said at a press conference. “We will send them the vaccine and medicine very quickly,” he said, adding that he planned to visit the site of the outbreak at the end of the week.
The World Health Organization said two more people have been infected in Mbandaka, which has a population of more than a million. It added that more people will be identified with an increase in surveillance.
“This is a province that has already experienced the disease,” the health minister said. “They know how to respond. They started the response at the local-level yesterday [Sunday].”
This is the 11th Ebola outbreak in the country since scientists first characterised the disease in 1976. It has killed 2,280 people in the east since it emerged in eastern North Kivu Province in August 2018 and later spread to the neighbouring Ituri province.
The WHO said it would be sending a team to help support DR Congo’s response. “This is a reminder that Covid-19 is not the only health threat people face,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “Although much of our attention is on the pandemic, WHO is continuing to monitor and respond to many other health emergencies.”
Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO’s regional director for Africa, said that although the new outbreak of Ebola posed a challenge, the health body along with Congo’s health ministry and the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was ready to tackle it. “With each experience we respond faster and more effectively,” Moeti tweeted.
The WHO had declared the outbreak a public health emergency of international concern in July 2019. Ebola causes fever, bleeding, weakness and abdominal pain. The virus is transmitted through contact with the blood, bodily fluids, secretions or organs of an infected or recently deceased person.
In April, Congo was days away from declaring the end of that outbreak, but a new chain of infection was confirmed in the east. However, no new cases have been detected there in over 30 days. To officially classify the end of the outbreak, no new cases must be recorded for 42 days – double the incubation period.