Ebola: fears of new major outbreak

Ebola: fears of new major outbreak

A Second Ebola death has been confirmed in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in a week amid fears of a new Ebola epidemic after an earlier outbreak was declared ‘over’ in November.

Ebola killed over 2,200 people in the DRC between 2018-2020 before the epidemic was declared ‘over’ by the country’s health ministry and the World Health Organization (WHO).

The DRC ministry said that the victim had been identified as a contact of another woman who had died from Ebola on February 4 and was married to a survivor of the previous outbreak.

According to local media, the victim’s symptoms were mistaken for COVID-19, and the patient was admitted to hospital.  On February 10, the day of the death, medial authorities discovered that the victim was positive for Ebola.

A team of contact tracers has been reportedly deployed to the area in an attempt to reduce the spread of the Ebola virus, Congo’s health ministry said.

“While not welcome news, this is an event we anticipated. We kept response teams in Beni and other high risk areas for precisely this reason,” said in a previous statement Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General.  

To date, eleven outbreaks of the Ebola virus have been reported in the DRC since it was first discovered near the Ebola river in 1976. 

The virus is transmitted to people from wild animals (such as fruit bats, porcupines and non-human primates) and then spreads in the human population through direct contact with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected people, and with surfaces and materials (e.g. bedding, clothing) contaminated with these fluids.

The average EVD case fatality rate is around 50%. Case fatality rates have varied from 25% to 90% in past outbreaks.

The first EVD outbreaks occurred in remote villages in Central Africa, near tropical rainforests. The 2014–2016 outbreak in West Africa was the largest and most complex Ebola outbreak since the virus was first discovered in 1976. There were more cases and deaths in this outbreak than all others combined. It also spread between countries, starting in Guinea then moving across land borders to Sierra Leone and Liberia.

It is thought that fruit bats of the Pteropodidae family are natural Ebola virus hosts.

Previous Ebola virus outbreaks:

• Équateur, Democratic Republic of the Congo, 2020
• North Kivu/Ituri, Democratic Republic of the Congo, 2018-2020
• Équateur, Democratic Republic of the Congo, 2018
• Bas-Uélé, Democratic Republic of the Congo, 2017
• West Africa, 2014-2016

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