Since 1976, there have been 14 outbreaks of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The most recent was in 2021, followed by 2020 when there was an outbreak that saw 140 cases of the disease, and in 2018, there were 54 cases recorded during that outbreak.
The current outbreak so far involved just one man (31) who began to show symptoms of Ebola on April 5. He attempted to take care of his own health at home before he went to a health facility for treatment on April 21.
Health workers recognized the symptoms and tested right away to confirm that it was Ebola. The man was admitted to an Ebola treatment center in intensive care but died the same day. The disease is fast acting and often involved fatality with rates from 25% to 90% resulting in death in past outbreaks.
Officials are trying to determine the source of the outbreak and are identifying contacts to monitor their health at the same time that the facility where the patient was treated is disinfected. Said World Health Organziation (WHO) Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti:
“Time is not on our side.”
“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 Democratic Republic of the Congo have more experience than anyone else in the world at controlling Ebola outbreaks quickly.”
Plans are underway to begin vaccinations of the Ebola vaccine which are already available in Goma and Kinshasa.
In a WHO statement, it was clarified that “vaccines will be sent to Mbandaka and administered through ‘ring vaccination strategy,’ where contacts and contacts of contacts are vaccinated to curb the spread of the virus and protect lives.”
Dr. Moeti explained: “Many people in Mbandaka are already vaccinated against Ebola, which should help reduce the impact of the disease. All those who were vaccinated during the 2020 outbreak will be revaccinated.”
WHO said the deceased patient received a safe and dignified burial.