On Wednesday, July 17, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the ongoing Ebola virus disease (EVD) epidemic in the DRC's North Kivu and Ituri provinces constitutes a "public health emergency of international concern." The declaration comes after a first case of EVD was confirmed in Goma (North Kivu province) on Sunday, July 14; the disease's arrival in Goma, home to 2 million residents, has stoked concerns of the epidemic possibly entering neighboring Rwanda. As of Monday, July 15, some 2512 confirmed and probable cases have been reported in the DRC's EVD outbreak, as well as 1676 associated deaths.
There remains a risk of regional transmission given the region's high level of insecurity, porous borders, transient population, and continued attacks on treatment centers and health workers.
The WHO defines a "public health emergency of international concern" as an "extraordinary event" that constitutes a public health risk to multiple states through the international spread of a disease and which may require an international response.
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 areas affected by the outbreak 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 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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