Although the last West African Ebola virus epidemic began in 2013 ending on June 9, 2016, its impact adversely impacted household incomes exacerbating the poverty numbers in the countries hardest hit by the virus.
The World Bank’s updated 2016 report indicates the overall impact of the Ebola epidemic on Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone was estimated at $2.8 billion.
Since the discovery of the Ebola virus disease in 1976 in South Sudan (then Sudan) and Democratic Republic of Congo (then Zaire), there have been recurrent outbreaks.
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Just days ago, news reports have it that the Democratic Republic of Congo has recorded 17 new Ebola cases in the western province of Equateur. Already 11 of those infected have died, medical authorities said on Monday.
The National Institute of Biomedical Research said in its daily report that there had now been 14 confirmed Ebola cases and three probable cases since a cluster of infections were confirmed in the city of Mbandaka on June 1.
WHO Emergency Operations Manager Michel Yao said the World Health Organization has more than 20 staff on the ground and it is ready to send in more, if necessary. He added, WHO is working with partners to set up treatment centers, to monitor risks and respond promptly to identify and trace new cases.
“Our objective this time is to work through local authorities that were already trained,” Yao said. “They had some experience. So, we have just to refresh and we have to remain behind coaching them. Lesson learned remain the critical one is to work through the community.”
U.N. health officials report there is no link between the Ebola outbreak declared June 1 in Mbandaka, Equateur Province, and the epidemic, which broke out nearly two years ago in DR Congo’s North Kivu and Ituri provinces.
The epidemic in eastern DRC, which has infected more than 3,460 people and killed 2,280, finally appears to be winding down. Two years ago, the same region was stricken with Ebola. It took less than four months to contain the outbreak thanks to an experimental vaccine.
Yao said the vaccines will help to speedily contain the virus. So far, he noted more than 600 people have been vaccinated in Mbandaka and Wangata health zones, adding 3,000 doses of the vaccine are in place and more are expected to be delivered soon.
A programme of vaccinations, door-to-door education and mobile hand washing stations is already underway to help combat the spread. The United Nations has released $40 million from its Central Emergency Response Fund to help tackle the new outbreak of Ebola and other health crises in the DRC.
“We have a lot of experience in tackling these outbreaks,” stated Eteni Longondo, the DRC’s health minister. “But that does not mean we are taking this disease any less seriously. It requires a complex system of epidemiologists, surveillance, infection prevention, risk assessment and contact tracing,” he added.
It’s suspected bats were probably the source of the outbreak, transmitted to humans through people eating mammals infected with the virus, such as bonobos, which are sometimes consumed as bushmeat.
DRC is also contending with the world’s largest measles outbreak and the spread of the coronavirus.