DR Congo declares new Ebola outbreak

(CNN) — The health authorities of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) declared on Friday a new outbreak of Ebola, after a case was confirmed in the city of Mbandaka, in the northwestern province of Ecuador, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported in a statement on Saturday.

This is the third outbreak in the province since 2018 and the 14th Ebola outbreak in the country since 1976, the WHO said.

“Time is not on our side,” said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. “The disease has had a two week head start and now we are catching up. The positive news is that health authorities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo have more experience than anyone else in the world in bringing Ebola outbreaks under rapid control.”

So far, only one case has been confirmed, the WHO said. The patient was a 31-year-old man who began experiencing symptoms on April 5. He sought treatment at a local health center after being ill for more than a week at his home. The man was admitted to an Ebola treatment center on April 21 for intensive care, but he died later that day, the WHO said.

Health workers recognized Ebola symptoms and “immediately” sent samples for testing, the WHO said. “Efforts are already underway to stop the current outbreak,” the WHO said, with vaccinations due to start in the coming days.

“Many people in Mbandaka are already vaccinated against Ebola, which should help reduce the impact of the disease,” said Dr Moeti. “Everyone who was vaccinated during the 2020 outbreak will be revaccinated.”

The deceased patient received “a safe and dignified burial, which involves modifying traditional funeral ceremonies in a way that minimizes the risk of contagious fluids infecting those in attendance,” the WHO said. Anyone who may have been in contact with the patient is being identified and will be monitored, and the health center where the patient received care has been decontaminated, the WHO said.

Previous outbreaks in Ecuador province were in 2020, when 130 cases were reported, and in 2018, when 54 cases were reported, the WHO said.

According to the WHO, “Ebola is a serious, often fatal disease that affects humans and other primates.” Case-fatality rates have ranged from 25% to 90% in previous outbreaks, but effective treatment is available and if patients receive it early, their chances of survival are “significantly improved”, the WHO said.

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