On Wednesday, May 9, health officials in Équateur province confirmed at least 21 Ebola cases, including 17 deaths, throughout the province. According to local sources, the Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) NGO has deployed medical teams to Équateur to respond to the outbreak.
Isolated outbreaks of the Ebola virus disease (EVD) occur occasionally in DRC, mostly in remote areas. The latest outbreak was declared by government authorities on May 12, 2017. Despite a dilapidated 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 able to do so effectively.
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.
Though the latest outbreak has been contained, given the highly infectious nature of the disease 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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