About a week after the Democratic Republic of Congo said it was free of the Ebola virus, another outbreak has occurred.
The government announced Wednesday that a cluster of cases had been identified in eastern Congo. Officials from Congo’s Ministry of Health, the United Nations, the World Bank and the WHO have rushed to the Mangina area near the town of Beni, reported Reuters, where the outbreak is said to have already killed 20 people.
A little over a week earlier, on July 24, the government declared that a previous outbreak in the country’s northwest had been eradicated. That outbreak started in May and killed 33 people.
“Ebola is a constant threat in the DRC,” WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement. “What adds to our confidence in the country’s ability to respond is the transparency they have displayed once again. Working closely with the Ministry of Health and partners, we will fight this one as we did the last.”
An ambulance from Doctors Without Borders drives through a street in the town of Beni, Congo, on August 2. A new outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus has been discovered in the region. Samuel Mambo/Reuters
Health workers arrived in the region soon after four cases of Ebola were officially confirmed in a lab. Containing the new outbreak may be a challenge, as eastern Congo has been embroiled in conflict. Since 2014, armed groups and government soldiers in the region have killed around 1,000 civilians.
“This outbreak comes at a time when the country is already unstable, with millions of people caught up in humanitarian crises as a result of ongoing conflicts,” Jose Barahona, Oxfam country director for the Democratic Republic of Congo, told The Guardian.
The WHO, however, has maintained confidence in its ability to once again eradicate the virus.
“Since we are coming out of another Ebola outbreak, we have kept staff and equipment in place,” Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO’s regional director for Africa, said. “This allows us to have a head start in response to this cluster.”
The province of North Kivu, where the virus has re-emerged, contains over 1 million people who have been displaced by conflict. North Kivu shares a border with both Rwanda and Uganda, and there is concern the virus may spread to these countries. However, the World Health Organization said it will “continue to work with neighboring countries to ensure health authorities are alerted and prepared to respond.”
In the past decade, nine outbreaks of the Ebola virus have been contained and ended in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, reported The Guardian.
About 11,000 people died three years ago in an outbreak in West Africa.
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