Ebola resurfaces in DRC

More than a year after declaring West Africa Ebola free, the World Health Organization says the virus has resurfaced in the Central African state of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

DRC’s Minister of Public Health Dr Oly Ilunga Kalenga had informed WHO of “an outbreak of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD)” in Likati health district, more than 1300 kilometres from Kinshasa in the northern DRC, following confirmation of the disease by the National Biomedical Research Institute (INRB), the national reference laboratory.

‘‘Of the five blood specimens taken from suspected cases and analysed at INRB, one has tested positive for Ebola virus  (Zaïre serotype) using real-time polymerase chain reaction,’’ Kalenga indicated in a letter to the WHO representative in the DRC, and requested support from the international public health agency, to strengthen the response to the outbreak.

Since 22nd April 2017, 9 suspected EVD cases have been reported including 3 deaths in Likati health district.

Dr Yokouidé Allarangar, WHO representative in the DRC says the body will provide the necessary assistance to tackle the outbreak.

‘The Likati health district is in a remote area, but contact tracing is essential to contain the outbreak in its focus; the DRC can rely on very experienced health workers for this purpose,’’ Allarangar noted.

The current outbreak is the seventh of EVD since its discovery in 1976 in DRC. The latest was in 2014 when 66 cases were diagnosed but 49 deaths were recorded.

WHO disclosed in a statement that investigation is currently ongoing and information is available for only three of the suspected cases: The first case (and possibly the index case), a 39-year-old male presented onset of symptoms and died on arrival at the health facility. He presented with haematuria, epistaxis, bloody diarrhoea, and haematemesis. Two contacts of this case are being investigated: a person who took care of him during transport to the health care facility (he has since developed similar symptoms) and a taxi driver (deceased) who transported the patient to the health care facility.

WHO says it does not recommend any restriction of travel and trade to DRC based on the currently available information.

Ebola virus disease (EVD) is a severe, often fatal illness in humans. The virus is transmitted to people from wild animals and spreads in the human population through human-to-human transmission. The average EVD case fatality rate is around 50%. Case fatality rates have varied from 25% to 90% in past outbreaks. The first EVD outbreaks occurred in remote villages in Central Africa, near tropical rainforests.