Health officials confirmed on Friday, August 16, that a mother and her young child in Mwenga (South Kivu province) had tested positive for Ebola virus disease (EVD) and that the mother had passed away on Thursday, August 15. The two had recently visited Beni (North Kivu province), the epicenter of the epidemic, where they most likely contracted the disease. These are the first confirmed cases of EVD in South Kivu province, now the third Congolese province to be affected by the ongoing outbreak. Health officials in the area are attempting to contain the spread of EVD by vaccinating individuals who may have come into contact with the two infected people. As of July 31, at least 2701 cases of EVD have been reported in North Kivu and Ituri provinces with more than 1800 deaths.
The risk of regional transmission remains high given the region's high level of insecurity, porous borders, and transient population.
On 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 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 (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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