BY Mark Babatunde, 1:30pm May 15, 2017,

Africa On High Alert as Fresh Ebola Outbreak Hits DRC

The Ebola virus was first identified in DR Congo in 1976. Since then, the country has witnessed at least nine outbreaks — more than any other country. Photo Credit: Iran News

The World Health Organization (WHO) declared a fresh outbreak of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo Friday.

At least three people have been confirmed dead and six others have contracted the deadly virus in the latest outbreak in the DR Congo, according to the BBC.

WHO Congo representative Allarangar Yokouide said in a statement that people began to get sick on or after April 22nd in Bas-Uele province in the country’s far north, which is 1,300 km (800 miles) northeast of the capital Kinshasa, close to Central African Republic border.

The WHO described the epidemic as a public health crisis but expressed hope that the outbreak would be brought under control soon. “It is in a very remote zone, very forested, so we are a little lucky, but we always take this very seriously,” said WHO Congo spokesman Eric Kabambi.

The Ebola virus disease is fatal in about 90 percent of cases. The disease is characterized by high temperatures, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and in most cases, death. It is commonly spread in humans through direct contact with the blood or body fluids of an infected person.

Following the WHO announcement, the government of Tanzania has issued a health alert calling on citizens to remain vigilant even as the Tanzanian Health Ministry said it was monitoring the recent outbreak closely.

Tanzania and much of East Africa have never suffered from an outbreak of Ebola, but officials say the country is not immune to an outbreak.

In Nigeria, authorities have assured the public of the government’s preparedness to prevent/combat a possible outbreak of the disease. The country’s air traffic regulation agency said on Saturday that it has elevated its surveillance level in several international airports to monitor travelers arriving from affected regions.

Nigerian spokesperson Henrietta Yakubu said that while there are no direct flights from Congo to Nigeria, officials had put in place a number of measures, including the provision of hand sanitizers and thermal scanners, to screen potential carriers of the disease at major entry points.

Nigeria suffered its first outbreak of the Ebola virus disease in 2014. It was a relatively minor episode (20 infected and eight dead) when placed against the backdrop of a colossal outbreak that hit West Africa in 2013 and raged on for two years, infecting an estimated 28,600 persons and killing about 11,300 of that number.

The Ebola virus was first identified in DR Congo in 1976. Since then, the country has witnessed at least nine outbreaks — more than any other country — with the latest coming in 2014. Over the years, the country has developed the capacity to tackle deadly outbreaks.

Meanwhile, the WHO says it plans to deploy a new Ebola vaccine it recently developed in partnership with pharmaceutical giant Merck in its fight against the new outbreak.

Last Edited by:Abena Agyeman-Fisher Updated: May 15, 2017


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