The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) announced the outbreak of a new Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in the country’s western province of Equateur. Around 65 known total cases have been recorded so far – 61 confirmed, 4 probable, 29 deceased, and 21 recovered. This reports the first Ebola outbreak in the province since 2018.
The World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Office for Africa put together a situation report on Ebola Virus stating that 61 cases, three more cases, along with two more deaths had been confirmed in DRC’s Equateur province since authorities announced a new outbreak there on June 1.
This is declared as DR Congo’s 11th Ebola outbreak since the virus was first identified in humans in 1976. “This is still a very active outbreak, and I would say it is still a great concern,” WHO’s top emergency expert told a news briefing.
Equateur has already exceeded the number of cases since its last short outbreak in 2018, which recorded only 33 deaths and 54 cases of infection.
Bobo Boloko Bolumbu, Equateur’s governor, announced the outbreak on national radio. According to him, the cases were found within the areas of Bikoro and Mbandaka – the province’s capital with a population of 1.2 million. Mbandaka is an important transport hub along the Congo River, which is connected to other parts of DRC. DRC also borders the Republic of the Congo and the Central African Republic. The shared boundaries enhance the ease of spreading and poses a threat to the other regions.
United Nations (UN) released USD 40 million from the Central Emergency Response Fund to support DR Congo. USD 1.5 million cumulated by the WHO for Congo in its fight against Ebola is depleting sooner than expected, says they are facing a “serious funding gap” and that the fund will only last for a few more weeks.
WHO’s Regional Director for Africa says the current Ebola outbreak is “running into headwinds” due to the scattered cases across the remote areas in the dense rain forests. “This makes for a costly response as ensuring that responders and supplies reach affected populations is extremely challenging,” she said.
Learning from its previous outbreak, WHO reported the supply of vaccinations started four days within the outbreak declaration, in comparison with 2018’s two week waiting period. In the six weeks since the outbreak, over 12,000 people have been vaccinated.
Along with Ebola, DR Congo is also battling a serious measles epidemic – which has claimed more than 3000 lives, as well as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic that infected 8844 people, with a death toll of 208, as per the official reports.
“The response to Ebola in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic is complex, but we must not allow COVID-19 to distract us from tackling other urgent health threats,” said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO Regional Director for Africa.
The 11th outbreak was announced as new cases of Ebola resurfaced in the eastern region of DR Congo. The new case was reported three days prior to WHO’s official deadline to notify the second-largest Ebola outbreak in history. Since the outbreak in 2018, 3,406 cases of infection and 2,243 deaths have been reported in the eastern region. However, the WHO declared the Ebola outbreak to be finally over after two full incubation periods.
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