CONGO – The Ministry of Health of the Democratic Republic of Congo has announced that a new case of Ebola has been detected in the health zone of Butsili in North Kivu Province, where a previous outbreak was declared over 3 May 2021.
The Goma branch of the National Institute of Biomedical Research (INRB) confirmed Ebola in samples taken from a young child who died after suffering from Ebola-like symptoms on 6 October.
Butsili is close to Beni, a town which was one of the epicentres of the 2018–2020 Ebola outbreak in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo and about 50 km from Butembo city which experienced a new Ebola outbreak earlier this year.
It is not unusual for sporadic cases to occur following a major outbreak, but it is too soon to say whether this case is related to the previous outbreaks. The city of Beni is a commercial hub with links to the neighboring countries of Uganda and Rwanda.
“WHO is supporting health authorities to investigate the new Ebola case,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Africa.
“North Kivu has been battered by Ebola outbreaks during the past few years, but this has built up local expertise and community awareness, paving the way for a fast-moving response.”
The North Kivu Provincial health authorities are leading the current response with support from the Ministry of Health and WHO.
During the previous outbreaks in North Kivu, WHO helped build the capacity of local laboratory technicians, contact tracers, vaccination teams and reached out to community groups to raise Ebola awareness, as well as put in place an Ebola survivor programme.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo’s 10th Ebola outbreak which lasted for nearly two years was the second largest in the world and by the time it ended there were 3481 cases, 2299 deaths and 1162 survivors.
The country’s 12th Ebola outbreak which occurred in and around Butembo was over after three months with 11 confirmed cases, one probable case and six deaths.
West Africa has been battling a triple tragedy. Several countries grapple with outbreaks of cholera, Ebola Virus Disease and Marburg Virus Disease that threaten to further strain the already stretched emergency response capacity in the region.
West Africa health systems are even more fragile than those in other sub-regions. A World Health Organization (WHO) assessment of the functionality of health systems in West Africa found that they were 21% lower than in Southern Africa.
“In addition to the strain of COVID-19, comes Ebola and other outbreaks. Fighting multiple outbreaks is a complex challenge, we can expect the pressure of COVID-19 to hit health services harder and faster,” Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, said.