A New Ebola Outbreak Was Just Confirmed in Congo

May 9, 2018

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The Democratic Republic of the Congo declared a new outbreak of the Ebola virus on Tuesday, after two people in the country were confirmed to be infected, according to World Health Organization

The current outbreak is in Bikoro, on the shores of Lake Tumba, in Congo. Congo’s Health Ministry said that two of five samples sent to the National Institute of Biological Research came back positive for Ebola in the country’s Equateur province.

Both cases were reportedly traced back to the Ilkoko Iponge health facility, located about 20 miles from Bikoro, according to WHO.  Prior to the outbreak being confirmed, there have been 21 suspected cases of viral haemorrhagic fever in and around the iIkoko Iponge, including 17 deaths in the past five weeks. 

“Our top priority is to get to Bikoro to work alongside the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and partners to reduce the loss of life and suffering related to this new Ebola virus disease outbreak,”said Dr. Peter Salama, WHO Deputy Director-General, Emergency Preparedness and Response. “Working with partners and responding early and in a coordinated way will be vital to containing this deadly disease.”

Ebola is one of the world’s most notorious viruses — both highly infectious and extremely deadly. The virus can spread by direct contact with blood or bodily fluids of an infected person or animal. It is also spread by contact with an object contaminated with infected bodily fluids. In 2014, an Ebola outbreak in West Africa claimed the lives of more than 11,000 victims.

This is Congo’s ninth Ebola outbreak since the first discovery of the virus in the country in 1976, with the last outbreak occurring in 2017. 

Following the discovery of this new outbreak, WHO has set up its Incident Management System — meaning more than 50 health experts and resources across the organization were sent to Congo to further investigate the outbreak. The health agency is also releasing $1 million from its Contingency Fund for Emergencies in effort to stop Ebola from spreading to nearby areas and countries. 

For most travelers, there is a very low risk for Ebola, according to the CDC.  However, travelers should take these steps to prevent infection as recommended by the CDC:

What can travelers do to prevent Ebola?

  • Avoid contact with sick people, dead bodies, blood, or body fluids
    • Don’t handle items that may have come in contact with a sick person’s blood or body fluids.
  • Avoid contact with animals
    • Avoid contact with monkeys, chimpanzees, gorillas, and bats.
    • Don’t eat or handle raw or undercooked meat or any bushmeat (wild animals hunted for food).
  • Practice good hygiene
    • Wash your hands often. If soap and water aren’t available, clean your hands with hand sanitizer (containing at least 60% alcohol).
    • Don’t touch your eyes, nose, or mouth. If you must, make sure your hands are clean first.

As of now, there are no reports of any entry screening programs for Ebola in airports or travel notices. 

Photo by JOHN WESSELS/AFP/Getty Images.

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