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WHO declares new Ebola outbreak in DR Congo

by Haruna Gimba

By Asmau Ahmad

The World Health Organisation (WHO) Africa’s office has declared an outbreak of Ebola after a 31-year-old man was diagnosed with the virus disease in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The case was confirmed in Mbandaka, a city in the north-western Equateur Province.

According to WHO, the latest discovery makes it the third outbreak in the province since 2018.

“So far, just one case has been confirmed. The patient, a 31-year-old man, began experiencing symptoms on 5 April and after more than a week of care at home, sought treatment at a local health facility.”

“On 21 April, the patient was admitted to an Ebola treatment centre for intensive care but died later that day. Having recognised the symptoms, health workers immediately submitted samples to test for Ebola virus disease,” said the UN agency in a statement issued on Saturday.

WHO, however, noted that investigations are ongoing to determine the source of the outbreak.

The WHO Africa Director, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, said the disease has had a two-week head start, stressing the need for urgent action.

“Time is not on our side,” she said, adding that, “the positive news is that health authorities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo have more experience than anyone else in the world at controlling Ebola outbreaks quickly.”

In addition to the government’s efforts, WHO said its experts are supporting the national authorities to “ramp up key outbreak response areas including testing, contact tracing, infection prevention and control, treatment as well as working with communities to support the public health measures to prevent infections.”

Also, vaccines will be sent to Mbandaka and administered through the ‘ring vaccination’ strategy, the agency announced.

“Many people in Mbandaka are already vaccinated against Ebola, which should help reduce the impact of the disease,” said Dr Moeti. “All those who were vaccinated during the 2020 outbreak will be revaccinated.”

Ebola virus disease, formerly known as Ebola haemorrhagic fever, is a rare but severe illness transmitted to people from wild animals.

It spreads in the human population through human-to-human transmission and its fatality rates have varied from 25 per cent to 90 per cent in the past.

While it first broke in 1976, West Africa experienced the largest Ebola outbreak between 2014-and 2016.

Based on the latest record, DR Congo, a Central African nation, is experiencing its fourteenth Ebola outbreak since 1976.

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