An ongoing outbreak of Ebola virus disease (EVD) has left at least 27 people dead in Équateur province as of Wednesday, May 23. Of the 51 suspected cases identified, 28 have been confirmed as EVD thus far. The outbreak, previously centered in the Bikoro health zone, has reportedly spread to Mbandaka in recent days. The World Health Organization (WHO) has stated that the risk of further Ebola transmission in the DRC is "very high," and has sent 8640 doses of the experimental Ebola vaccine to curtail the spread of the outbreak. An additional 8000 doses are expected to be available in the coming days. Health authorities launched a vaccination campaign in affected areas on May 21.
To prevent further spread of the disease, Nigeria, Ghana, and Gabon have implemented health inspections at ports of entry for all passengers arriving from the DRC. Despite such measures, the spread of the disease to other African countries is expected 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.