New Ebola outbreak in Congo amid coronavirus relief spurs panic, concern

June 3, 2020

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have just announced that a new outbreak of Ebola virus disease is occurring in its northwestern port city of Mbandaka – of the six detected Ebola cases, four have died and two are alive and under care. Increasing surveillance activities are expected to identify more people with the disease, given the existence of the virus in animal reservoirs in many parts of the country.

The Ebola virus is a severe, often fatal, illness that affects humans and other primates; it is transmitted to people from wild animals and can spread in the human population via direct contact with blood and other bodily fluids of the infected people and via contaminated surfaces.

“COVID-19 is not the only health threat people face,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General. A team from the WHO is already in Mbandaka supporting the response to this new outbreak, including the collection and testing of samples, and sending them to the national laboratory for confirmation. Contact tracing is also underway and a further 25 people are expected to arrive in Mbandaka as well. “Although much of our attention is on the pandemic, WHO is continuing to monitor and respond to many other health emergencies,” Dr. Ghebreyesus added.

The new Ebola outbreak marks the 11th disease surge faced by the DRC since the virus was first discovered in the country in 1976. Mbandaka and its surrounding area was the site of the DRC’s 9th–and major – Ebola outbreak in May-June 2018.The current outbreak of Ebola is happening simultaneously with the 10th outbreak in the northeastern provinces of North Kivu, South Kivu and Ituri; health authorities, however, believe the 10th outbreak is almost at its end.

“It’s happening at a challenging time, but WHO has worked over the last two years with health authorities, Africa CDC and other partners to strengthen national capacity to respond to outbreaks,” said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.

WHO is working to send additional supplies from North Kivu to support the ground team and will ensure that essential health services are provided to communities despite emergency events.

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