World Health Organisation (WHO) has reported that health authorities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) on Saturday declared an outbreak of Ebola in Mbandaka, a city in the north-western Equateur Province.
WHO, in a statement, stated that DRC declared an outbreak of Ebola after a case was confirmed in the city on April 5.
The infected patient was a 31-year-old man who began experiencing symptoms on April 5 and after more than a week of care at home, sought treatment at a local health facility.
On April 21, he 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, WHO explained.
So far, just one case has been confirmed and investigations to determine the source of the outbreak are ongoing.
“Time is not on our side,” Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, said, noting that “the disease has had a two-week head start and we are now playing catch-up.”
According to her, the positive news is that health authorities in the DRC have more experience than anyone else in the world at controlling Ebola outbreaks quickly.
This is the 14th Ebola outbreaks in the Democratic Republic of the Congo since 1976.
The new outbreak is the sixth since 2018 – the most frequent occurrence in the country’s Ebola history.
Previous outbreaks in Equateur Province were in 2020 and 2018, with 130 and 54 recorded cases respectively.
WHO informed that the deceased patient received a safe and dignified burial, which involves modifying traditional funeral ceremonies to minimise the risk of contagious fluids infecting attendees.
Health authorities are also identifying contacts to monitor their health and disinfected the health facility where the patient was treated.
Moreover, plans to kick off vaccination in the coming days are underway with stockpiles of the rVSV-ZEBOV Ebola vaccine already available in the cities of Goma and Kinshasa.
The UN health agency assured that vaccines would 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.
“All those who were vaccinated during the 2020 outbreak will be revaccinated,” Moeti said.
Ebola is a severe, often fatal illness affecting humans and other primates. Case fatality rates have varied from 25 per cent to 90 per cent in past outbreaks.