Health authorities have increased health measures along the border with the DRC (health checking, medical materials), fearing a potential spread of the Ebola virus, which is affecting the DRC eastern provinces of North Kivu and Ituri, located along the border with Uganda. As the DRC is expected to hold presidential elections on December 23, authorities in Uganda fear that potential post-electoral violence may prompt people to flee to Uganda and spread the disease.
Congolese Ministry of Health officials have reported 542 cases of Ebola virus disease (EVD) in North Kivu and Ituri provinces between August 1 and mid-December, resulting in 319 fatalities. The outbreak is concentrated in North Kivu's capital Beni, although it is also present in 11 other health zones in North Kivu (i.e. Musienene, Masereka, Butembo, Vuhovi, Mabalako, Kalunguta, Beni, Katwa, Kyondo, Lubero, and Oicha) and three in Ituri (i.e. Mandima, Komanda, and Tchomia).
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 above areas 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 (e.g. wash hands regularly, etc.)
• Avoid crowded areas (e.g. 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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