The World Health Organisation (WHO) Regional Office for Africa has confirmed eight fresh cases of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
The UN’s health agency confirmed the development in a statement posted on its website.
“The Government of DRC has announced a new outbreak of Ebola virus disease in Wangata health zone, Mbandaka, in Équateur province.
“The announcement comes as a long, difficult and complex Ebola outbreak in eastern DRC is in its final phase, while the country also battles COVID-19 and the world’s largest measles outbreak.
“Initial information from the Ministry of Health is that eight Ebola cases have so far been detected in Wangata, of which four have died (one laboratory confirmed case and three probable cases) and four are alive (two laboratory confirmed and two probable).
“It is likely more people will be identified with the disease as surveillance activities increase,’’ it said.
The statement quoted WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, as saying: “This is a reminder that COVID-19 is not the only health threat people face.
“Although much of our attention is on the pandemic, WHO is continuing to monitor and respond to many other health emergencies.”
According to the statement, this is the DRC’s 11th outbreak of Ebola since the virus was first discovered in the country in 1976.
The city of Mbandaka and its surrounding area were the site of DRC’s 9th Ebola outbreak, which took place from May to July 2018.
The statement also quoted Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, as saying: “It is happening at a challenging time, but WHO has worked over the last two years with health authorities, Africa Centre for Disease Control and other partners to strengthen national capacity to respond to outbreaks.
“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.”
According to the statement, WHO is already on the ground in Mbandaka supporting the response to this outbreak, as part of capacity built during the 2018 outbreak.
“The team supported the collection and testing of samples, and reference to the national laboratory for confirmation. Contact tracing is underway. Work is ongoing to send additional supplies from North Kivu and from Kinshasa to support the government-led response.
“A further 25 people are expected to arrive in Mbandaka tomorrow. WHO is also working to ensure that essential health services are provided to communities despite these emergency events.’’
The DRC’s 10th outbreak of Ebola, in North Kivu, South Kivu and Ituri provinces, is in its final stages.
On 14 May 2020, the Ministry of Health began the 42-day countdown to the declaration of the end of that outbreak.
New outbreaks of Ebola are expected in DRC given the existence of the virus in an animal reservoir in many parts of the country.
By Cecilia Ologunagba