Democratic Republic of Congo declares Ebola outbreak

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) declared a new Ebola virus epidemic in the northwestern city of Mbandaka, located in the DRC’s Equateur province, on Saturday, Sky News reported on Sunday.

Officials from the World Health Organization (WHO) detailed the outbreak on April 23, noting that health authorities in the DRC have so far detected only one case of the disease.

“The patient, a 31-year-old male, started showing symptoms on April 5th and after more than a week of home care, sought treatment at a local health facility. On 21 April, the patient was admitted to an Ebola intensive care center but died later that day,” the WHO wrote in a press release.

Health workers at the Mbandaka health facility recognized the man’s symptoms as similar to those of the Ebola virus and “immediately sent” his health samples to test for the disease, later confirming that he had contracted Ebola.

DRC health officials are currently investigating the source of Mbandaka’s latest Ebola outbreak, which marks the “sixth sixth since 2018 alone – the most frequent occurrence in the country’s Ebola history,” according to the WHO.

A woman takes her temperature at an Ebola screening station as she enters the Democratic Republic of Congo from Rwanda on July 16, 2019 in Goma.  - The first patient to be diagnosed with Ebola in the city of Goma in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo has died, the governor of North Kivu province said on July 16, 2019. The case - the first in a large urban center of the region in almost a year - a former epidemic of the disease - has aroused deep concern in neighboring Rwanda and at the UN.  (Photo by JOHN WESSELS/AFP) (Photo by JOHN WESSELS/AFP via Getty Images)

A woman takes her temperature at an Ebola screening station as she enters the Democratic Republic of Congo from Rwanda on July 16, 2019 in Goma. (JOHN WESSELS/AFP via Getty Images)

The Equateur Province of the DRC previously declared Ebola outbreaks in 2020 and 2018. The 2020 epidemic produced 130 cases of Ebola, while the 2018 outbreak caused 54 infections of the disease. The current Ebola epidemic in Mbandaka marks the 14th outbreak of Ebola in the DRC since scientists discovered the deadly disease in 1976 near the Ebola River of the DRC (the DRC was then known as “Zaire”).

Health workers burn medical waste generated while caring for Ebola virus patients, on Aug. 21, 2018 in Mangina, near Beni, North Kivu province.  - Sixty-one people died in the latest Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), officials said, adding that four new drugs were added to the list of treatments.  The outbreak began on Aug. 1 in Mangina, the epicenter of the outbreak in North Kivu province, and cases have been reported in neighboring Ituri province.  It is the tenth outbreak to hit the DRC since 1976, when Ebola was first identified and named after a river in the north of the country.  (Photo by John WESSELS/AFP) (Photo credit must be JOHN WESSELS/AFP/Getty Images)

Health workers burn medical waste generated while caring for Ebola virus patients, on Aug. 21, 2018 in Mangina, near Beni, North Kivu province. (JOHN WESSELS/AFP/Getty Images)

“Ebola virus disease (EVD)”, as it is officially called by the WHO, is “a rare but serious disease, often fatal in humans”. Wild animals can transmit Ebola to humans, who can then spread the disease to other humans through direct physical contact, such as through mucous membranes or broken skin. Human-to-human transmission of Ebola can occur through the exchange of “blood or bodily fluids from a person who is sick or has died of Ebola… [or] objects that have been contaminated with bodily fluids (such as blood, feces, vomit) from a person sick with Ebola or the body of a person who died from Ebola,” according to the WHO

Ebola has an average fatality rate of around 50%, although previous outbreaks of the disease have shown fatality rates ranging from 25% to 90%.

The WHO, which is the international public health body of the United Nations (UN), said on April 23 that it plans to support a local Ebola vaccination campaign in Mbandaka in the coming days.

“The country [DRC] already has stocks of the rVSV-ZEBOV Ebola vaccine available in the cities of Goma and Kinshasa. Vaccines will be shipped to Mbandaka and administered through the ‘ring vaccination’ strategy – where contacts and contacts of contacts are vaccinated to contain the spread of the virus and protect lives,” the WHO said on Saturday.

O. WHO referred to “rVSV-ZEBOV-GP”, or the research name of an anti-Ebola vaccine marketed as “Ervebo”. The European Medicines Agency (EMA), which is the official health regulator of the European Union (EU), approved Ervebo on November 11, 2019, marking “the first time that any Ebola immunization has passed this hurdle”, the british academic journal Science reported.

“The decision by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) to allow US pharmaceutical company Merck to market its vaccine means the product can now be stocked and potentially distributed more widely than it is now, particularly in Africa.” Science observed at the time.

Erbevo was first patented in 2003 and until the end of 2019 it was administered on an emergency basis to contain specific and acute Ebola outbreaks across Africa.

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