A fresh outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus has flared up in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a country that was already fighting with the world’s largest measles epidemic as well as the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO)’s news release, DR Congo announced on June 1 that a new outbreak of Ebola virus disease is occurring in Wangata health zone, Mbandaka, in Équateur province.
DR Congo’s Ministry of Health has informed that six Ebola cases have been detected in Wangata so far. Of these, four have died while two are alive and under care. Three of these six cases have been confirmed with laboratory testing, said WHO.
“This is a reminder that COVID-19 is not the only health threat people face,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General.
Although much of our attention is on the pandemic, WHO is continuing to monitor and respond to many other health emergencies, said Dr Adhanom.
This is the 11th Ebola outbreak in the vast central African country's history since the virus was first discovered there in 1976.
The outbreak has come just weeks before it had hoped to declare the end of the 10th in the east. DR Congo’s outbreak of Ebola, in North Kivu, South Kivu and Ituri provinces, is in its final stages. On May 14, the Ministry of Health began the 42-day countdown to the declaration of the end of that outbreak.
Before this, the city of Mbandaka and its surrounding area were the site of DR Congo’s 9th Ebola outbreak, which took place from May to July 2018.
New outbreaks of Ebola are expected in the Democratic Republic of the Congo given the existence of the virus in an animal reservoir in many parts of the country, said WHO.
WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti said that the recent outbreak of Ebola is happening at a challenging time. But WHO has worked over the last two years with health authorities, Africa CDC and other partners to strengthen national capacity to respond to outbreaks, the doctor said.
“To reinforce local leadership, WHO plans to send a team to support scaling up the response. Given the proximity of this new outbreak to busy transport routes and vulnerable neighbouring countries we must act quickly,” added DR Moeti.
Key figures in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
11th Ebola outbreak: Mbandaka, Équateur province.
> Ongoing. Declared on June 1
> Six cases (three confirmed, three suspected). Of these, four people died and two are under treatment
> A total of 3,195 cases have been reported, including 72 deaths (as of May 31)
> Since 2019, 369,520 measles cases and 6,779 deaths have been reported.