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Ebola outbreak confirmed in DR Congo

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Location of Likati District, in the former Orientale Province

Location of Likati District, in the former Orientale Province

The World Health Organization has declared an outbreak of the Ebola hemorrhagic virus in the north of the DR Congo, where the first cases were reported late last month.

Since April 22, there have been nine suspected cases of Ebola, including three deaths; samples from five cases have been analyzed, and one has turned positive for the Zaire serotype of the Ebola virus, its most virulent form.

The cases are currently clustered in a small town within the Likati District of Bas Uele Province (formerly Orientale Province), a remote and forested province that abuts the Central African Republic.

The WHO, which was notified on Friday, has already set up a response plan to contain the outbreak.

“The first teams of epidemiologists, biologists, and experts in the areas of social mobilization, risk communication and community engagement, and also personnel specializing in water, hygiene and sanitation, are scheduled to reach the affected area today or tomorrow via Kisangani,” said Dr. Yokouide Allarangar, the WHO Representative for the DR Congo.

Kisangani is a major town about 350 km from the town of Buta, the administrative capital of Bas Uele Province, which in turn is 130 km from Nambwa Health Center, the center of the Ebola outbreak.

8th outbreak

This current outbreak is the eight such occurrence of Ebola, which was first positively identified from a Congolese patient in 1976 and named after the local Ebola River.

As such, despite several weaknesses such as insufficient healthcare workers, the DR Congo has an easily activated contingency plan for Ebola; in 2014, this contingency plan saw an Ebola outbreak that started in August contained by November, with 49 Ebola related deaths.

Similarly, in the 2012 Ebola outbreak, which started in August too, Congolese authorities had contained the viral disease by October.