Health authorities are reporting an Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo. This is the first Ebola outbreak since the end of the West Africa outbreak in 2016, and the first in the country since November 2014.
The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) declared a suspected Ebola outbreak on May 9, 2017 in Likati Health Zone, Bas Uele Province, in the northern part of the country bordering the Central African Republic. The Likati Health Zone is around 1 400 kilometers (870 miles) from the capital Kinshasa.
The first Ebola case was confirmed on May 12. By May 15, there were 20 suspected cases reported with two confirmed laboratory tests. "To date, there have been three deaths, of which two are confirmed as Ebola. The estimated number of people that could be infected is currently 400," ECHO reported on May 16.
The Likati Health Zone is located in a remote, hard-to-access part of northern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The isolation, low population density, early detection and the availability of experienced responders, including the Red Cross of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, give reason for hope that this outbreak will be contained. However, now is not the time for complacency, IFRC said. The country’s Ministry of Health, supported by international partners, has deployed a team of experts to the affected area to conduct an in-depth field investigation.
"In these early days of the outbreak our priority must be to maintain close and efficient coordination with the national authorities, the WHO, EU Member States, international partners and NGOs on the ground," Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management and EU Ebola Coordinator Christos Stylianides said.
Currently, this is a small and manageable outbreak and appears to be geographically limited. Thus, WHO does not recommend any restriction of travel and trade to DRC based on the currently available information. The DRC has experience with handling Ebola; however, investigations are ongoing to assess the full extent of the outbreak.
Previous Ebola outbreaks have underscored the importance of local action, delivered in local languages, and with respect to local customs and beliefs to help communities understand the current facts of the outbreak so that they can protect themselves, their families and support the response against the disease.
This is the eighth outbreak of Ebola virus disease since its discovery in 1976 in the Democratic Republic of Congo. On November 20, 2014, in line with WHO recommendations, the Ministry of Health of DRC and WHO declared the end of the Ebola Virus disease outbreak that started on August 24, 2014 and resulted in a total of 38 laboratory confirmed cases and 28 probable cases including 49 deaths in Boende, Equateur province.
According to the WHO, the Ebola virus causes an acute, serious illness which is often fatal if untreated. Ebola virus disease (EVD) first appeared in 1976 in 2 simultaneous outbreaks, one in what is now, Nzara, South Sudan, and the other in Yambuku, Democratic Republic of Congo. The latter occurred in a village near the Ebola River, from which the disease takes its name.
The 2014–2016 outbreak in West Africa was the largest and most complex Ebola outbreak since the virus was first discovered in 1976. There were more cases and deaths in this outbreak than all others combined. It also spread between countries, starting in Guinea then moving across land borders to Sierra Leone and Liberia.
Featured image credit: MONUSCO/Jesus Nzambi