The World Health Organization (WHO) announced on Monday that there have been nine confirmed cases and six recent Ebola deaths in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

About seven days ago, six infections were reported by local authorities in the north-western city of Mbandaka. They believe this outbreak to be separate from the one which has occurred in the east of the country since 2018.

The initial six infections have now risen to nine confirmed cases, and there are another three suspected cases, as well as the six fatalities.

Mbandaka is situated in the Equateur province and on the Congo river. It’s in close proximity to the border with neighbouring Republic of Congo.

The region also suffered an Ebola outbreak in 2018, during which 33 people died. Rapid containment measures, including vaccinations, mobile hand washing stations and a door-to-door education helped to minimise the spread of the deadly disease.

Ebola vaccinations

Vaccinations have again been implemented, since late last week, Health Minister Eteni Longondo told AFP.

“Vaccination began in Mbandaka on Friday, with the help of our partners,” he said. “We have vaccinated as a priority medical personnel, people who have had direct contacts with confirmed cases and second-tier contacts.

“We had 1,500 doses, we have ordered 8,000 more and we may place an additional order. Because there is huge demand from people in Mbandaka who want to get vaccinated.”

The latest cases are the 11th major outbreak in the DRC and the third in the last two years.

Following genetic sequencing undertaken by Congo’s biomedical research laboratory, it was deduced that the new outbreak probably originated via a spillover event – transmission from an infected animal.

The disease was first identified in 1976, in southern Sudan as well as in the DRC. It has been particularly deadly in western African countries such as Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia. In the 2013 – 2016 west African outbreak, more than 10,000 people died.

Symptoms include high temperatures, vomiting, diarrhea, internal and external bleeding. The recovery rate is low, on average around 50 percent. It is transmitted through direct contact with body fluids. Such as blood from infected humans or other animals, or via items contaminated by infected body fluids.

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