It was only yesterday that Authorities in Congo announced a new Ebola outbreak in the western city of Mbandaka, adding to another epidemic of the virus that has raged in the east since 2018.
Six cases have been already detected. Four of them passed away in the city, and it has been estimated that a trading hub of 1.5 million people on the Congo River with regular transport links to the capital Kinshasa.
Image credit CNN
Mbandaka is 1,000 km (620 miles) from an ongoing outbreak that has killed over 2,200 people in North Kivu province by the Uganda border, where containment efforts have been very fragile because of the constant armed conflicts.
The new outbreak is Congo’s eleventh since the virus was discovered near the Ebola River in 1976.
“We have a new Ebola epidemic in Mbandaka,” health minister Eteni Longondo told the media. “We really need to very quickly send them the vaccine and medicine.”
The Ebola virus causes hemorrhagic fever and is spread through direct contact with body fluids from an infected person, who suffers severe vomiting and diarrhoea.
The discovery is a major misfortune for the Democratic Republic of Congo, which has already suffered three Ebola outbreaks since 2017.
Image credit Loop Jamaica
On top of this, the country is also combating a measles epidemic that has killed over 6,000, and not to forget the current global pandemic known as COVID-19, which has infected over 3,000 and killed 71.
“This outbreak is a reminder that Coronavirus is not the only health threat people face,” World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus tweeted.
The health ministry was two days away from declaring the end of the eastern North Kivu outbreak in April when a new chain of infection was confirmed. No new cases have been detected there in over 30 days.
Specifically, Ebola was detected in Mbandaka in 2018, leading to the growing concerns that it could spread fast there, or, even worse, that it could reach Kinshasa, which is home to 10 million people. Indeed, if Ebola spreads in the city of Kinshasa a new deadly massacre would become real.
However, the use of a vaccine and swift containment efforts including mobile handwashing stations and a door-to-door education campaign are trying to keep the new Ebola outbreak at bay.
A health worker injects a woman with an Ebola vaccine. Image credit Reuters