Just days before the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) was expected to declare an end to the Ebola outbreak, the World Health Organization (WHO) has said that a new case of the virus has been confirmed. The new case was confirmed in Beni, a community that had been an epicenter of the epidemic in eastern DRC.
According to reports, the patient passed away Thursday morning in a hospital and had a few days earlier showed symptoms of the virus.
“Preliminary information shows that he is a 26-year-old man in Beni territory,” the multisectoral committee for the response to the epidemic said in a statement.
“Our teams, in collaboration with the WHO, are already on the ground to deepen the investigations and implement public health actions,” it added.
The current Ebola outbreak, which emerged in August 2018, has killed more than 2,260 people. Since February 17, no new cases of the virus had been registered and the DRC was planning to declare an end to the outbreak and prepare for the novel coronavirus when the new case was confirmed on Friday.
“After 52 days without a case, surveillance & response teams on the ground have confirmed a new case. We have been preparing for and expecting more cases,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a Twitter post.
“Unfortunately, this means the government of DRC will not be able to declare an end to the Ebola outbreak on Monday, as hoped. But WHO remains on the ground and committed as ever to working with the government, affected communities and our partners to end the outbreak.”
WHO’s Regional Director for Africa Dr. Matshidiso Moeti said she is sad to hear about the new case, but added that WHO will continue to work side by side with health authorities in the DRC to end Ebola.
“We’ll just have to go for another 42 days, or the required period of time without a case for the Ebola outbreak to be declared over”, said Mike Ryan, who leads the WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme.
“Maybe that’s our lesson for COVID-19: There is no exit strategy until you’re in control of the situation,” he added.
The worst Ebola attack on the continent was recorded in 2014 in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, where more than 11,000 people died.
Why the disease is dangerous
Ebola virus disease (EVD) is a severe, often fatal illness in humans. It is often transmitted from animals to people, and then from people to people by direct contact with infected blood, bodily fluids or organs, or indirectly through contact with contaminated areas.
Formerly known as Ebola haemorrhagic fever, the disease is named after the Ebola River in DRC. It was first discovered in 1976.
According to the WHO, the incubation period of the disease is between two and 21 days. Some of the first symptoms include fever fatigue, muscle pain, headache and sore throat.
The other symptoms are vomiting, diarrhoea, rash, symptoms of impaired kidney and liver function, and in some cases, both internal and external bleeding.
People remain infectious as long as their blood contains the virus and it may also persist in different fluids including amniotic and placenta fluids in pregnant women and breast milk in lactating women at the time of infection.