Brazzaville/Kinshasa, Health authorities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo declared an Ebola outbreak today after the confirmation of a case in Mbandaka, capital of Equateur province (north -west). This is the third outbreak in this province since 2018.
So far, only one case has been confirmed. The patient, a 31-year-old man, began experiencing symptoms on April 5 and after more than a week of home care, he sought treatment at a local health facility. On April 21, the patient was admitted to an Ebola treatment center for intensive care but died later that night. After recognizing the symptoms, health workers immediately took samples for laboratory testing for Ebola virus disease. Investigations to determine the source of the outbreak are ongoing.
“Time is not on our side,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Africa. “The disease has taken a two-week head start and we are now playing catch-up. The good news is that health authorities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo have more experience than anyone else in the world in rapidly controlling Ebola outbreaks. »
The Democratic Republic of Congo is experiencing its fourteenth Ebola outbreak since 1976. The current outbreak is the sixth since 2018 alone, the most frequent event in the country’s Ebola history. In Equateur province, previous outbreaks date back to 2020 and 2018, with 130 and 54 cases recorded respectively.
Efforts to stem the current outbreak are already underway. The deceased patient received a dignified and safe burial, which involves modifying traditional funeral ceremonies in ways that minimize the risk of contagious fluids infecting attendees.
Anyone who has been in contact with the patient is also identified and their state of health will be monitored. The health facility where the patient received care has been decontaminated.
WHO experts based in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are supporting national authorities to strengthen key areas of outbreak response, including testing, contact tracing, infection prevention and control, treatment, as well as risk communication and engagement with communities to support public health measures to prevent infections.
Vaccination should start in the next few days. The country already has stocks of rVSV-ZEBOV Ebola vaccine available in the cities of Goma and Kinshasa. The vaccines will be sent to Mbandaka and administered using the “ring vaccination” strategy – where contacts and contacts of contacts will be vaccinated to curb the spread of the virus and protect lives.
“Many people in Mbandaka are already vaccinated against Ebola, which should help reduce the impact of the disease,” said Dr Moeti. “All those who were vaccinated during the 2020 epidemic will be revaccinated”
Ebola is a potentially deadly disease, affecting humans and other primates. Case fatality rates have ranged from 25% to 90% in past epidemics. Effective treatment now exists and if patients receive early treatment, as well as supportive care, their chances of survival improve dramatically.
Source: World Health Organization