Health authorities in the Democratic Republic of Congo have declared a new Ebola outbreak after a recent case emerged.
The case was confirmed in a 31-year-old man, who began showing symptoms on April 5 and went to a local health facility after being sick at home for more than a week, according to CNN. He was admitted to an Ebola treatment center on Thursday for intensive care but died hours later.
Health care workers recognized the symptoms and “immediately” submitted samples for testing, the World Health Organization said. Investigators are still looking for the source of the outbreak.
“Time is not on our side,” Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO regional director for Africa, said in a statement.
“The disease has had a 2-week head start, and we are now playing catch-up,” she said. “The positive news is that health authorities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo have more experience than anyone else in the world at controlling Ebola outbreaks quickly.”
This is the third outbreak in the country’s northwestern Equateur Province in recent years, with 54 cases reported in 2018 and 130 cases reported in 2020. It also marks the 14th Ebola outbreak in the country since 1976, the year the virus was discovered.
Health officials have begun efforts to stem the current outbreak, including confirmation that the patient who died received a “safe and dignified burial” that lessened the risk of contagious fluids infecting others, the WHO said. The health facility where he received care has been decontaminated.
More than 70 of the patient’s contacts are also being traced, and vaccinations are being increased in the city of Mbandaka, where he was located. The country already has stockpiles of the Ebola vaccine and will use the “ring vaccination” strategy, where contacts and contacts of contacts are vaccinated to curb the spread of the virus.
“Many people in Mbandaka are already vaccinated against Ebola, which should help reduce the impact of the disease,” Moeti said. “All those who were vaccinated during the 2020 outbreak will be revaccinated.”
In past Ebola outbreaks, death rates have varied from 25% to 90%, but effective treatments are now available, the WHO said. Patients who receive care early have a much greater chance of survival.
Ebola is spread by coming into contact with the body fluids of an infected person or contaminated materials. Early symptoms include muscle aches and a fever, which resemble other infections such as malaria.
CNN: “New Ebola outbreak declared in DRC after single case confirmed.”
World Health Organization: “Democratic Republic of Congo declares new Ebola outbreak in Mbandaka.”