The World Health Organization (WHO) announced on Monday, June 8, that at least 12 people are now believed to have been infected with Ebola in the Equateur Province city of Mbandaka, where a new outbreak of the viral hemorrhagic fever was identified at the beginning of June. According to WHO figures, nine cases of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) have been confirmed in the city in recent days, with a further three probable cases being identified. Of these confirmed and probable cases, six patients have died. The WHO has also confirmed that the new outbreak is separate from the ongoing EVD epidemic in the eastern provinces of North Kivu and Ituri, where at least 2280 people have succumbed to the disease since August 2018. The Mbandaka outbreak is likely to have been the result of animal-to-human transmission such as via the consumption of illegal bushmeat.
The confirmation of new cases in Mbandaka comes as health workers begin a large-scale EVD vaccination campaign in the city in an attempt to quickly contain the outbreak. Around 1500 medical personnel and those believed to have come into contact with confirmed and suspected EVD patients have been vaccinated since the campaign began on Friday, June 5, with an additional 8000 doses of the vaccine on order for the city.
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 the later stages, internal and external hemorrhaging.
The latest EVD epidemic is the third to hit the DRC in the last two years, and the second in Mbandaka after a previous outbreak in 2018 that killed 33 people.
Individuals in Mbandaka are advised to monitor the situation and take measures to prevent the contraction and spread of EVD, including:
- 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 (e.g. 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.).
Individuals exhibiting the abovementioned symptoms and traveling in an area of active EVD transmission should seek immediate medical attention and comply with all directives issued by local health authorities.
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