DRC – The Democratic Republic of the Congo has declared an outbreak of Ebola after a case was confirmed in Mbandaka, a city in the north-western Equateur Province which is the third outbreak in the province since 2018.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo is experiencing its fourteenth Ebola outbreaks since 1976.Previous outbreaks in Equateur Province were in 2020 and 2018, with 130 and 54 recorded cases respectively.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Ebola virus disease is a severe deadly illness affecting humans with case fatality rates ranging from 25% to 90% in past outbreaks.
The virus is transmitted to people from wild animals such as fruit bats, porcupines and non-human primates then spreads in the human population through direct contact with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected people.
The infectious disease has an effective treatment available which significantly improves chances of survival if patients receive treatment early coupled supportive care along with community engagement to successfully controlling outbreaks.
In DRC, a 31-year-old Ebola man experienced onset of severe symptoms on 5th April 2022 after more than a week of care at home and sought treatment at a local health facility.
The patient was admitted to an Ebola treatment center for intensive care on 21st April 2022 but died later that day where health workers immediately submitted samples to test for Ebola virus disease.
Consequently, Congo health authorities are carrying out investigations to determine the source of the Ebola virus outbreak.
The health authorities have identified persons who came in contact with the deceased patient and are currently monitoring their health while the health facility where the patient received care has been decontaminated.
“The disease has had a two-week head start but the positive news is health authorities in DRC have more experience than anyone else in the world at controlling Ebola outbreaks quickly,” WHO Regional Director for Africa Dr. Matshidiso Moeti observed.
WHO health experts based in DRC are supporting national authorities to put in place preventive measures to control the further spread of Ebola including testing, contact tracing, infection prevention and control.
The health organization is also conducting supportive care like rehydration with oral or intravenous fluids and treatment of specific symptoms to improve survival while working with communities to support the public health measures to prevent infections.
Moreover, the DRC government plans to roll out vaccination campaigns amid the outbreak with stockpiles of the rVSV-ZEBOV Ebola vaccine available in the cities of Goma and Kinshasa.
The health authorities disclosed that the vaccines will be sent to Mbandaka and administered through ‘ring vaccination’ strategy where contacts and contacts of contacts are vaccinated to curb the spread of the virus and protect lives.
“Many people in Mbandaka are already vaccinated against Ebola which should help reduce the impact of the disease,” noted Dr. Moeti.
She further said that every person who was vaccinated against the Ebola disease virus during the 2020 outbreak will be revaccinated.