On August 1, health officials announced that 26 suspected cases of Ebola had been detected, including four confirmed cases and 20 related deaths, in the town of Beni and its surroundings (North Kivu province). Sanitation measures will be put in place in the coming days. However, further spread of the disease is possible.
Isolated outbreaks of the Ebola virus disease (EVD) occur occasionally in the DRC, mostly in remote areas. The latest outbreak was declared by government authorities on May 8, 2018, in quateur province. In that outbreak, which officially ended on July 24, 54 cases were reported, including 33 fatalities.
Despite a dilapidated healthcare system, international health organizations operating in the country as well as the local population are well versed in responding to the disease and are able to do so effectively. However, the security situation in the North Kivu, home to several armed groups, may render these actions difficult. Furthermore, there is a risk for the disease to spread regionally as Beni is located near the borders with Uganda and Rwanda, across which a lot of international trade is conducted.
EVD is extremely virulent. The disease is transmitted to humans via direct contact with the blood, secretions, organs, or other bodily fluids of infected animals. The disease can then be transmitted between humans and is highly contagious, particularly during the hemorrhagic phase. Ebola is characterized by the sudden onset of high fever, weakness, joint and muscle pain, and headache. A sore throat is also a common early symptom. These symptoms are followed by nausea/vomiting, diarrhea, rashes, kidney and liver failure, and, in some cases, internal and external bleeding.
Travelers should avoid the area and monitor the situation. To prevent the spread of EVD:
- Avoid contact with infected individuals and any items that have been in their close proximity
- Avoid consuming bush meat and only handle animals when wearing gloves and the appropriate protective wear
- Animal products (meat and blood) should be thoroughly cooked before consumption
- Adhere to a strict observance of hygienic precautions (wash hands regularly, etc.)
- Avoid crowded areas (stadiums, markets, train stations, etc.) In case of doubt, individuals should seek immediate medical attention and comply with all directives issued by local health authorities.
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