On Thursday, May 17, the World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed that the ongoing Ebola virus disease (EVD) outbreak in Équateur province has spread to Mbandaka. Some 44 cases have been reported nationwide, including 23 associated deaths, as of May 17; the outbreak has, to date, been centered in the Bikoro health zone.
The WHO has shipped some 4000 doses of experimental Ebola vaccine to begin a vaccination campaign in affected health zones during the week of May 14. To prevent further spread of the disease, Nigeria, Ghana, and Gabon have implemented health inspections at ports of entry for all passengers arriving from DRC. Despite such measures, the spread of the disease is expected in affected areas in the near-term.
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.
From December 2013 to June 2016, an Ebola outbreak led to over 28,000 suspected cases and 11,310 deaths in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Nigeria, and Mali.
Given the highly infectious nature of the disease travelers should avoid affected 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 (wash hands regularly, etc.)
- Avoid crowded areas (stadiums, markets, train stations, etc.)
Individuals exhibiting the abovementioned symptoms - particularly after potential exposure to disease vectors - should seek immediate medical attention. Comply with all directives issued by local health authorities.