CONGO – Three new Ebola cases have been confirmed in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, bringing the total to five in the last 10 days, the World Health Organization (WHO) has said.
Health officials have said the latest flare-up of the virus appeared to be linked to the massive 2018-20 outbreak, which killed more than 2,200 people and infected more than 1,000 others.
The first confirmed case was a young boy who died of the disease ten days ago. Three of the boy’s neighbors also died last month after experiencing symptoms associated with Ebola, which can include severe vomiting, hemorrhaging and diarrhea.
Health officials in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo confirmed a second case of Ebola on Thursday, A 42-year-old woman.
The cases were detected on Saturday in the health district of Butsili, close to the city of Beni where the last outbreak was centered, the WHO said in a statement. Three people out of the five confirmed cases have died.
Flare-ups after a major Ebola outbreak can be caused by latent infections that linger in bodily fluids of survivors.
The virus can remain in certain body fluids, including semen, of a patient who has recovered from the disease, even if they no longer have symptoms of severe illness.
Vaccines have been a game changer in containing recent outbreaks more quickly. Last week medics began vaccinating contacts of the cases using a shot manufactured by Merck. It is one of two available Ebola vaccines, the other made by Johnson & Johnson.
In May, the country declared the end of an Ebola outbreak that infected 12 people in the eastern province of North Kivu and killed six of them.
“I am pleased to solemnly declare the end of the 12th epidemic of Ebola virus disease in North Kivu Province,” health minister Jean-Jacques Mbungani said in a statement.
The outbreak was contained using Merck’s Ebola vaccine, which was given to more than 1,600 of the patients’ contacts and contacts of contacts, the aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), said.
The cases were genetically linked to the 2018-20 Ebola epidemic that killed more than 2,200 people; the second-highest toll recorded in the disease’s history.