New Ebola outbreak confirmed in Democratic Republic of the Congo
A new outbreak of the Ebola virus has been confirmed by the government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), after two people tested positive for the disease in Bikoro, in the country's north-west.
"Our country is facing another epidemic of the Ebola virus, which constitutes an international public health emergency," the Democratic Republic of the Congo's health ministry said in a statement. It also confirmed that a further 17 individuals may have already been killed in the outbreak.
A 2014 outbreak of the disease killed more than 11,000 people across the West African countries of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, with a total of 28,000 cases confirmed in this area. In the DRC, 49 people lost their lives, with another flare-up in 2017 killing a further four people.
The World Health Organization also confirmed the news, adding that they were working with the government of the DRC to enact prevention operations and mobilise health teams: "Working with partners and responding early and in a coordinated way will be vital to containing this deadly disease", said Dr Peter Salama, WHO Deputy Director-General, Emergency Preparedness and Response, in a statement. In order to support these efforts, WHO has released $1 million from its Contingency Fund for Emergencies.
A highly contagious disease, the most common signs of Ebola are a high temperature, a headache, joint and muscle pain, a sore throat, and severe muscle weakness. However, when symptoms become worse they can include diarrhoea, vomiting, stomach pain and reduced kidney and liver function. In the final stages, the patient may bleed internally, or from the ears, eyes, nose or mouth.
Part of what makes Ebola so threatening is that there is currently no licensed treatment or vaccine for the disease. According to WHO guidelines, in order to be declared free of the disease, a country must present no new cases for a period of 42 consecutive days, during which time the last confirmed patient will have twice tested negative for the disease.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, scientists do not know exactly where Ebola comes from. However, having looked at similar viruses, they believe that it may be transmitted to humans via animals, with fruit bats being a likely source. The virus can spread to people via direct contact with the blood, body fluids and tissue of infected fruit bats or primates.