Ebola Outbreak in Congo

By Shujaa Kwanzaa

The Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo.

According to international news reports, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) announced a new outbreak of Ebola, just days after a recent emergence of the disease, was declared over.

This latest outbreak killed 33 people.

According to the DRC’s health minister, four cases of the virus were confirmed in northeastern North Kivu province.

The minister went on to say there was no indication they were linked to the country’s previous – and ninth – Ebola outbreak in northwestern Equateur Province.

“Although we did not expect to face a tenth epidemic so early, the detection of the virus is an indicator of the proper functioning of the surveillance system,” Health Minister Oly Ilunga said.

However, it might be impossible to use a vaccine to tackle the new outbreak, Peter Salama, a senior World Health Organization (WHO) official, said.

Officials have not confirmed the particular strain of Ebola causing the outbreak but Salama said it could be the Zaire, Sudan or Bundibugyo strain.

If it is the Zaire strain, the Merck vaccine used in the last outbreak may be an option, otherwise the situation will be much more complex “and we may not have any vaccine options”, he told Reuters at WHO’s headquarters in Geneva.

International experts on Thursday set up a laboratory in the city of Beni, 30km from where the outbreak was declared.

Ebola is a virus-caused hemorrhagic fever that in extreme cases causes fatal bleeding from internal organs, the mouth, eyes, or ears.

North Kivu authorities alerted the health ministry on Saturday that 26 cases of hemorrhagic fever, including 20 deaths, had occurred in and around Mangina, a town about 30km west of the city of Beni and 100km from the DRC’s border with Uganda.

Six samples were taken from hospitalized patients and sent to the National Institute of Biological Research in Kinshasa, the capital, for analysis. Four of the samples tested positive for the Ebola virus.

A team of 12 experts from the health ministry will arrive in Beni on Thursday to set up a response operation, the ministry said, and local travel restrictions were being implemented.

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