In Congo, Ebola outbreak death toll reaches 27

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The Ebola epidemic which killed over 11,300 people across Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea during 2013-2016 has reared its ugly head again.

On 8th May, WHO was notified by the Ministry of Health of the Democratic Republic of the Congo of two lab-confirmed cases of Ebola Virus Disease occurring in Bikoro health zone, Equateur province.

As of 21st May, the WHO has reported 58 cases of Ebola, including 27 deaths so far, with three deaths confirmed as Ebola. Most of these cases have been in the remote Bikoro health zone, although one confirmed case is in Mbandaka, a densely-populated city of 1.2 million, which has implications for its spread.

Ebola is a contagious, infectious illness that can cause internal bleeding and often results in fatalities.  It can easily spread through contact with contaminated bodily fluids such as saliva, blood, and other bodily fluids. In the early stages of infection, it has flu-like symptoms which makes it hard to detect and once detected and confirmed, isolation is the best way to contain the spread of EVD.

However, the WHO has said that this latest Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo is not yet an international public health emergency, and it had “strong reason to believe that the outbreak can be brought under control”.

According to a statement by the emergency committee which convened recently, nine neighboring countries, including Congo-Brazzaville and Central African Republic, have been advised that they are at high risk of spread and have been supported with equipment and personnel.

Currently, there is an Ebola vaccine available for emergency use, that is directed against the deadliest Ebola strain, the Zaire strain. On May 21st, the health workers have begun an immunization campaign to curtail the spread of the deadly virus.

At a special meeting in Geneva to discuss the latest Ebola outbreak crisis, Peter Salama, Head of Emergency responses at the WHO said, “We are on the epidemiological knife-edge. The next few weeks will really tell if this outbreak is going to expand to urban areas or if we are going to be able to keep it under control.”

Credit: WHO