Health authorities in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are scrambling to contain a new outbreak of the Ebola virus.
The outbreak was declared in the north-west city of Mbandaka. So far, it has been just the one case, of a 31 year old male, who began experiencing symptoms on the 5th April, but sought treatment over two weeks later, on 21st April.
He was admitted to an Ebola treatment centre, where he was immediately placed in intensive care, but died on the same day.
As with all Ebola deaths, the patient was buried, with funeral rites adapted for the protection of the mourners. The health centre sent samples for testing, confirming the outbreak.
With support from the World Health Organisation (WHO), health experts, resident in the DRC, the work of tracing everyone with whom the deceased came into contact began immediately.
“Time is not on our side” said WHO regional director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, “the disease has had a two-week head start, and we are now playing catch up. The positive news is that health authorities in the DRC have more experience than anyone else in the world, at controlling Ebola outbreaks quickly.”
The latest outbreak is the fourteenth in the DRC, since 1976, and the sixth, since 2018, the most frequent incidence of Ebola, in the country’s history.
A vaccination drive will begin in the next few days, the DRC already has the rVSV-ZEBOV Ebola vaccines, stockpiled in both Goma and Kinshasa, and it is a matter of transporting them to Mbandaka.
“Many people in Mbandaka are already vaccinated against Ebola, which shold help reduce the impact of the disease” said Dr Moeti, “all those who were vaccinated during the 2020 outbreak, will be revaccinated.”
Although Ebola remains a severe, often fatal disease, affecting both humans and other primates, case fatalities have varied from 25% to 90%, years of research have led to availability of effective treatment. If treated early, with proper care, patients’ chances of survival are now greatly improved.