Democratic Republic of Congo: Ninth Ebola outbreak in 40 years

Modesto Morganelli
Mag 18, 2018

Every time a new Ebola diagnosis is made vaccinations are delivered to all who may have come into contact with that person over a three week period. Teams are also setting up two Ebola Treatment Centres (ETCs) in Mbandaka and Bikoro, with 20 beds each.

The outbreak previously appeared to be confined to the Ikoko Impenge area, near the town of Bikoro, in the central African nation's Equateur Province.

The WHO said on Thursday that an Ebola case had been confirmed in Mbandaka, a city in the northwest of the country with a population of around a million. "Now that we are facing the Ebola virus we must use all the resources we have".

"This is a major, major game-changer in the outbreak", Dr. Peter Salama, the World Health Organization's deputy director-general of emergency preparedness and response, warned Thursday.

A panel will decide on Friday whether to declare a "public health emergency of worldwide concern", which would trigger a larger response.

Since the outbreak began, there has been a total of 45 cases: 14 confirmed, 21 probable and 10 suspected.

The WHO, which has been coordinating with DRC's health ministry in an attempt to combat the outbreak, said it would hold an emergency meeting on Friday to consider the possible worldwide risks posed by Ebola.

A new suspected case of Ebola was recorded this week in Wangata, one of the three health zones of Mbandaka, the capital of the northwestern Equateur province.

Chief executive Doctor Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus visited the affected Bikoro area last weekend, saying he hoped for a "better way out" of the latest outbreak in DRC.

A single case of Ebola was confirmed in Mbandaka, a densely populated provincial capital on the Congo River, Congo's Health Minister Oly Ilunga said late Wednesday.

The WHO is sending 7,540 doses of an experimental vaccine to try to stop the outbreak in its tracks, and 4,300 doses have already arrived in Kinshasa.

Mbandaka, a city of nearly 1.2 million, is in a busy travel corridor in Congo's northwest Equateur province and is upstream from the capital, Kinshasa, a city of about 10 million.

This time though, health officials have another, far more proactive weapon in the fight against Ebola: an experimental vaccine known as Merck's rVSV-ZEBOV, or V920.

Ebola is lethal and highly contagious, which makes it hard to contain - especially in urban environments where people are mobile and come into more contact with others.

World Health Organization said it was deploying about 30 experts to conduct surveillance in the city. On average, about 50% of people who become ill with Ebola die.

The first human outbreaks of Ebola occurred in 1976, one in the north of what is now Congo and in the region that is now South Sudan.

An Ebola epidemic killed about 11,300 people in West Africa as it surged through Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia between 2013 and 2016.

Early symptoms include fever, muscle pain and fatigue, followed by vomiting, diarrhoea, rashes and bleeding - both internal and external - apparent in the gums, eyes, nasal passages and faeces.

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