The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) announced Sunday, Feb. 7, the resurgence of Ebola in the east of the country, where the World Health Organization (WHO) sent a team of epidemiologists to investigate after a woman died three months after an earlier epidemic was declared over.
There is a “resurgence of the Ebola virus in eastern DRC,” Congolese Health Minister Eteni Longondo said on national television, adding that a fatal case had been localized in the North Kivu Biena (East) region. “It is a farmer, the wife of a survivor of the Ebola virus, who showed the typical signs of this highly contagious disease on February 1,” he continued. She died Feb. 3, and analysis of her blood sample, taken before her death, tested positive for the Ebola virus, the health ministry said in a statement.
WHO epidemiologists already dispatched
The village of Biena is in the territory of Butembo, where World Health Organization (WHO) epidemiologists are investigating on the ground and where “more than 70 contacts have been identified,” the Africa office of the World Health Organization (WHO) wrote in a statement Sunday in Brazzaville. WHO added that Butembo “was one of the epicenters of the last Ebola epidemic in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo” and that “it is not unusual for sporadic cases to occur after a major outbreak.”
This new case was registered after the official end was announced on November 18, 2020, of the eleventh Ebola epidemic, which had claimed 55 lives among 130 registered cases. The last Ebola patient was declared cured on October 16, 2020.
Minister Eteni did not declare the twelfth Ebola epidemic. But he warned in mid-November that there is a high risk of recurrence of Ebola in the DRC. The tenth Ebola epidemic, the deadliest in the DRC, was declared in the east of the country on August 1, 2018. Its end was officially announced on June 25, 2020, There were 3,481 cases, 2,299 deaths, and 1,162 survivors, according to WHO figures.
To stop this tenth epidemic, more than 320,000 people in the DRC were vaccinated for the first time in this highly unstable area, using two vaccines from two different pharmaceutical companies Merck and Johnson & Johnson. The same strategy was used to overcome the 11th epidemic, which broke out in a hard-to-reach area of Equateur province in the northeast of the country.
The Ebola virus was identified in 1976 by Peter Piot and an international team, including Professor Muyembe of Congo, and is transmitted to humans through infected animals. Transmission to humans occurs through body fluids, and the main symptoms are fever, vomiting, bleeding, and diarrhea. Since the major epidemic of 2013-2016 in West Africa (11,000 deaths) the WHO fears that any resurgence of Ebola could spread the virus worldwide.
The Who had also elevated the previous epidemic in the east to the level of an international health emergency. The DRC is also currently fighting the Covid 19 epidemic, with a toll so far of 23,599 cases and 681 deaths.