Ebola Cases Spike in Congo Again, Still under Siege from COVID-19 and Massive Measles Outbreak

(EnviroNews World News) — Mbandaka, Democratic Republic of Congo — The Democratic Republic of Congo has been hit with a second outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus. CNN is reporting the city of Mbandaka has nine recent cases, including five fatalities, one of which was a 15-year-old girl. According to Reuters, one case was found in the town of Bikoro, 93miles away (150 km). Four of the cases involved a person who attended one of the first burials. Mbandaka is on the Congo River and part of a trade route that goes to the country’s capital Kinshasa and it’s 10 million people.

“It’s happening at a challenging time, but [the World Health Organization (WHO)] has worked over the last two years with health authorities, Africa CDC and other partners to strengthen national capacity to respond to outbreaks,” said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. “To reinforce local leadership, WHO plans to send a team to support scaling up the response,”Moeti continued. “Given the proximity of this new outbreak to busy transport routes and vulnerable neighboring countries we must act quickly.”

Mbandaka, with a population of 1.5 million people, is about 620 miles (1,000 km) from the North Kivu province where 2,200 people have died since 2018 due to the virus. Armed conflict in that region has hampered disease containment.

“This is a reminder that COVID-19 is not the only health threat people face,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, in a statement. “Although much of our attention is on the pandemic, WHO is continuing to monitor and respond to many other health emergencies.”

These two viral outbreaks aren’t the only illnesses decimating the Congolese population. The world’s largest measles epidemic has killed over 6,600 people as well, according to the WHO, while COVID-19 has infected more than 3,000 killing 72 (though officials believe that number is low due to lack of testing).

This is the Congo’s 11th outbreak of Ebola since the disease was first discovered on the Ebola River in Congo in 1976. It is the country’s third flareup since 2017. In 2018, Ebola was detected in Mbandaka, but quick action on the part of the government, including deployment of vaccines, implementation of mobile handwashing stations, and door-to-door education campaigns, stopped the disease before it could develop into a full-blown epidemic. There were 54 cases and 33 deaths between May and July 24, 2018.

The Health Ministry thought it had the outbreak in North Kivu contained in April and was two days away from declaring it over when a new string of cases emerged. It takes 42 days with no new cases to have the area declared free of Ebola. The region’s countdown began on May 14, 2020. Ebola is a hemorrhagic fever that causes severe vomiting and diarrhea. It is spread through contact with body fluids and has a mortality rate ranging from 25 to 90 percent. Ebola is endemic to the area and found in animals throughout the country.

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