As the world battles the novel coronavirus with scientists working around the clock to discover a vaccine, the Democratic Republic of Congo is battling with the deadly Ebola virus again.
This comes about just as the country’s east was to declare an end to the Ebola epidemic. The emergence of the deadly Ebola virus in the northwest comes to add to the DRC’s woes as it fights the coronavirus pandemic and measles.
World Health Organization chief, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, wrote on Twitter that, “A new #Ebola outbreak detected in western #DRC, near Mbandaka, Équateur province. @MinSanteRDC has identified 6 cases, of which 4 people have died, this outbreak is a reminder that #COVID19 is not the only health threat people face.”
DRC is also dealing with the spread of measles. Over 350,000 people have been infected with measles since January 2019, and the country has reported more than 6,500 deaths.
“Four people have already died” from Ebola in a district of the north western city of Mbandaka, according to Health Minister Eteni Longondo.
“The National Institute of Biomedical Research (INRB) has confirmed to me that samples from Mbandaka tested positive for Ebola,” Longondo told a news conference.
“We will send them the vaccine and medicine very quickly,” the minister said, adding that he intended to visit the site of the outbreak at the end of the week.
The Equateur Province, Mbadaka is not new to the Ebola virus as it dealt with the outbreak from May to July 2018. In a province of over a million people which serves as a transport hub on the Congo River, 33 died and 21 recovered.
“This is a province that has already experienced the disease. They know how to respond. They started the response at the local level yesterday [Sunday],” Longondo said.
DRC has had 10 Ebola outbreaks since scientists characterised the diseases in 1976 with the newest outbreak making it 11. In the country’s east where the epidemic broke out earlier, 2,280 people have died in the North Kivu Province since August 2018.
According to Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa, the new outbreak in Mbandaka “represents a challenge”, that the WHO is “ready to tackle”.
However, the country’s unrest and lack of confidence in medical workers caused a surge in the disease and impeded efforts to curb it in the past.
To help prevent the spread of coronavirus the government enforced travel restrictions between provinces. Inadvertently, these restrictions may help to reduce the spread of Ebola from the north western town of Mbandaka.