Health officials announced on Sunday, August 5, that an Ebola vaccination campaign will begin in North Kivu province on Wednesday, August 8. As of August 4, at least 13 Ebola cases have been confirmed in North Kivu and Ituri province, including three fatalities. Cases in North Kivu have been centered in the towns of Beni and Mabalako. Health officials said another 30 suspected cases are still being investigated in the region. Public health measures - including increased monitoring - are expected in North Kivu in the coming days and weeks.
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 Equateur province. In that outbreak, which officially ended on July 24, 54 cases were reported, including 33 fatalities.
Despite a scant 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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