The Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) announced on Monday, June 1, 2020 that a new outbreak of Ebola virus disease is occurring in Wangata health zone, Mbandaka, in Équateur province.
The announcement comes as a long, difficult and complex Ebola outbreak in eastern DRC is in its final phase, while the country also battles COVID-19 and the world’s largest measles outbreak.
Initial information from the Ministry of Health is that six Ebola cases have so far been detected in Wangata, of which four have died and two are alive and under care. Three of these six cases have been confirmed with laboratory testing. It is likely more people will be identified with the disease as surveillance activities increase, according to health officials.
“This is a reminder that COVID-19 is not the only health threat people face,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “Although much of our attention is on the pandemic, WHO is continuing to monitor and respond to many other health emergencies.”
This is the DRC’s 11th outbreak of Ebola since the virus was first discovered in the country in 1976. The city of Mbandaka and its surrounding area were the site of the country’s 9th Ebola outbreak, which took place from May to July 2018.
“It’s happening at a challenging time, but WHO has worked over the last two years with health authorities, Africa CDC and other partners to strengthen national capacity to respond to outbreaks,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.
“To reinforce local leadership, WHO plans to send a team to support scaling up the response. Given the proximity of this new outbreak to busy transport routes and vulnerable neighbouring countries we must act quickly,” she added.
WHO is already on the ground in Mbandaka supporting the response to the outbreak, as part of capacity built during the 2018 outbreak. The team supported the collection and testing of samples, and reference to the national laboratory for confirmation. Contact tracing is underway. Work is ongoing to send additional supplies from North Kivu and from Kinshasa to support the government-led response, according to the WHO.
A further 25 people are expected to arrive in Mbandaka tomorrow, even as the WHO is also working to ensure that essential health services are provided to communities despite these emergency events.
The DRC’s 10th outbreak of Ebola, in North Kivu, South Kivu and Ituri provinces, is said to be in its final stages. On May 14, 2020, the Ministry of Health began the 42-day countdown to the declaration of the end of that outbreak.
WHO said that new outbreaks of Ebola are expected in the DRC given the existence of the virus in an animal reservoir in many parts of the country.