New Ebola outbreak hits Democratic Republic of Congo

A nurse working for the World Health Organization (WHO) in the city of Mbandaka, Democratic Republic of Congo, shows a vial containing a vaccine against the Ebola virus. 
Photo: Getty Images / AFP / Junior D. Kannah

Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) “faces new outbreak” of Ebola haemorrhagic fever, reportedly killing 20 people in eastern Chad, health minister said Wednesday just a week after announcing the outbreak the end of the previous epidemic.

The new epidemic threatens the Beni region, while the previous one affected the northwest of the country. “At this stage, there is no indication that these two epidemics, separated by more than 2500 kilometers, are linked,” the minister, Dr. Oly Ilunga Kalenga, said in a statement.

“Ebola is a permanent threat in the DRC,” said World Health Organization (WHO) Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. By working closely with the Ministry of Health and its partners, we will fight this crisis the way we did last time. “

“Since we are coming out of another Ebola outbreak, we have kept the staff and equipment in place,” said Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.

Already known to be the stronghold of many armed groups, the province of North Kivu notified Saturday “the Ministry of Health 26 cases of fever with hemorrhagic signs, including 20 deaths” in a village near Beni, recalled the minister .

“Six samples taken from hospitalized patients arrived in Kinshasa this Tuesday, July 31 and were analyzed by the National Institute for Biomedical Research (INRB). Of the six samples analyzed, four were positive for Ebola virus disease, “he said.

“A team of twelve experts from the Ministry of Health will arrive in Beni this Thursday, August 2,” said Ilunga.

The focus will be on security “to ensure the protection of deployed health care providers and the population,” he said.

Located in the north of the province near the border with Uganda, the region of Beni is the stronghold of the alleged Ugandan Islamist group Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) which terrorizes civilians.

“I call for calm and caution,” said the governor of North Kivu province, Julien Paluku, on Twitter.

Already 9 other epidemics

The Democratic Republic of the Congo has had nine previous Ebola outbreaks on its soil, where the virus first broke out in 1976.

On July 24, the same Congolese Minister of Health announced the end of the ninth epidemic declared on May 8 in Equateur province on the Congo-Brazzaville border.

This epidemic, part of the equatorial forest, killed 33 people for 54 cases in total, according to the statistics of the Ministry of Health.

The DRC and its partners (the World Health Organization, Doctors Without Borders and UNICEF) had “prepared for the worst” when a case was diagnosed on 16 May in the provincial capital Mbandaka, in direct contact with the government. Kinshasa capital via the Congo River.

WHO and the Congolese authorities have for the first time launched a targeted vaccination targeting health care workers, patient contacts and contacts, totaling 3,300 people.

The second largest country in Africa (2.3 million square kilometers), the DRC has immense mineral resources, but the vast majority of its 80 million inhabitants live on a few dollars a day.

The country is going through a political crisis ahead of the elections scheduled for 23 December 2018 in anticipation of the departure of President Joseph Kabila .

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