By David E. Hubler
Contributor, EDM Digest
The World Health Organization has reported an outbreak of Ebola virus disease (EVD) in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Laboratory results of samples from five patients confirmed two cases of the rare and deadly disease in the northwestern province of Bikoro, the DRC Ministry of Health said Tuesday.
In the past five weeks, the area has reported 21 cases, including 17 deaths. The cause is suspected to be from a viral hemorrhagic fever. This is a generic term for illnesses involving fever and bleeding caused by a variety of viruses, including Ebola.
The announcement said the Geneva-based health organization is working closely with the DRC government “to rapidly scale up its operations and mobilize health partners using the model of a successful response to a similar EVD outbreak in 2017.”
Limited Health Facilities in Bikoro Impede Treatment
All cases were reported by the IIkoko Iponge health facility, located about 30 kilometers (18.5 miles) from Bikoro, where health facilities are very limited. Bikoro relies on international organizations to provide supplies that frequently run out, WHO said.
“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,” Dr. Peter Salama, WHO Deputy Director-General, Emergency Preparedness and Response, said in the WHO statement.
“Working with partners and responding early and in a coordinated way will be vital to containing this deadly disease,” Dr. Salama added. WHO has alerted neighboring countries about the Ebola outbreak.
Ebola Experts Traveling to Bikoro
The first multidisciplinary team comprised of experts from WHO, Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors without Borders) and the Provincial Division of Health travelled to Bikoro Tuesday. They intend “to strengthen coordination and investigations,” according to the WHO statement.
In the coming days, WHO plans to deploy epidemiologists, logisticians and clinicians, as well as infection prevention and control experts. They will be aided by risk communications experts and vaccination support teams.
The international health group will determine supply needs and help fill gaps, such as for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
In addition, WHO released $1 million USD from its Contingency Fund for Emergencies to support the response activities over the next three months. The extra funds will aid the efforts to stop the spread of Ebola to surrounding provinces and countries.
This is the ninth outbreak of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo since the discovery of the virus in the country in 1976.