KEY POINTS

  • Officials in the Democratic Republic of Congo declared a new Ebola outbreak Saturday
  • Responders are already identifying and monitoring close contacts of the patients
  • The current outbreak is the sixth in the DRC since 2018

Two people have died in the current Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the World Health Organization (WHO) reported. Quick efforts are already underway to contain the outbreak.

The DRC declared a new Ebola outbreak Saturday, noting that a case had been confirmed in the city of Mbandaka. At the time of the announcement, only one case of the disease had been reported. It was of a 31-year-old who began experiencing symptoms on April 5 but only had home care for more than a week. The patient was admitted to an Ebola treatment center on April 21 but died that same day.

On Tuesday, the organization announced that DRC officials have confirmed a second case in the outbreak. This time, it is of a 25-year-old woman who was actually the sister-in-law of the first patient. She reportedly began experiencing symptoms 12 days prior and died Monday. Both of them received a "safe and dignified burial."

"At least 145 people came into contact with the confirmed cases, their health is being monitored," noted WHO Africa Region. "Responders are working to quickly identify & monitor anyone who interacted with her."

In the earlier announcement, WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti , said that "time is not on our side," noting how the disease had a "two-week head start."

"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," said Dr. Moeti.

Many people in Mbandaka are already vaccinated against Ebola, and the country still has stocks of the vaccine available in other cities. These supplies will be sent to Mbandaka and administered in a "ring vaccination" strategy, wherein the contacts as well as the contacts of the contacts will be vaccinated to try and stop the spread of the virus, noted WHO.

"Many people in Mbandaka are already vaccinated against Ebola, which should help reduce the impact of the disease," Dr Moeti said, as per the WHO announcement. "All those who were vaccinated during the 2020 outbreak will be revaccinated."

The current outbreak is the DRC's 14th Ebola outbreak since 1976, noted the WHO. It is the sixth since 2018, making the period the "most frequent occurrence in the country's Ebola history."

Health workers flooded into eastern DR Congo to help fight Ebola after the disease broke out in the region in August 2018 Health workers flooded into eastern DR Congo to help fight Ebola after the disease broke out in the region in August 2018 Photo: AFP / John WESSELS