The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has announced a new outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus, just days after a recent emergence of the disease, which killed 33 people, was declared over. Polity reports that four cases of the virus were confirmed in north-eastern North Kivu province, but the DRC’s health minister said there was no indication they were linked to the country’s previous – and ninth – Ebola outbreak in north-western Equateur Province.
“Although we did not expect to face a tenth epidemic so early, the detection of the virus is an indicator of the proper functioning of the surveillance system,” Health Minister Oly Ilunga said.
The Times reports that four new deaths from people who tested positive for the disease were recorded in the Beni region in North Kivu province, a region with deep security problems which shares borders with Uganda and Rwanda.
The total death toll has reached seven from 16 confirmed cases, the ministry said. “In total, 43 cases of haemorrhagic fever have been reported in the region, including 16 confirmed and 27 probable, and 31 suspected cases are under investigation,” the ministry said.
Almost 1,000 people who have had “contact” with the virus have been registered in health zones under surveillance, it said.
The health ministry said on 1 August the country was facing its tenth outbreak of Ebola since 1976. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said the “deterioration of the security situation” in the affected area was expected to hinder the response to the outbreak.
Health officials from the DRC said they will begin administering Ebola vaccinations in the eastern cities of Beni and Mangina, says a Mail & Guardian report. Officials say the experimental vaccine, produced by drug maker Merck, was successful in containing a similar outbreak less than two weeks ago in north-western Congo.
Beni’s Ebola response director Barthe Ndjoloko Tambwe said the vaccinations would be given to health care providers, confirmed Ebola victims and those with whom they have been in contact. During the recent outbreak in the northwest, vaccinations were given to 3,300 people. Officials say this helped contain the outbreak.
The report says Congo has 3,000 doses of the vaccine in stock and health workers there have been busy setting up a so-called cold chain to keep them well below freezing, a major challenge in Congo’s tropical climate. Lack of reliable power supplies adds to the difficulty facing health workers to that end.