Health officials in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) confirmed the first case of Ebola virus disease (EVD) in the city of Bunia (Ituri province) on Wednesday, March 20. The confirmed case is a six-month-old infant and officials are investigating how the child was infected. Bunia is the second-largest city in the region with a confirmed Ebola case. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), as of March 20 there are 991 total cases in North Kivu and Ituri provinces and 614 confirmed fatalities. While the WHO has reported that there are signs the disease is "contracting" and may be under control within six months, continued spread in the near term is likely and there remains a risk of regional and international transmission given the region's high level of insecurity, porous borders and transient population, and increased levels of violence targeting medical professionals and facilities.
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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