The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) declared a new epidemic of the Ebola virus in the nation’s northwestern city of Mbandaka, located in DRC’s Equateur Province, on Saturday, Sky News reported Sunday.
World Health Organization (W.H.O.) officials detailed the outbreak on April 23, noting that DRC health authorities have so far detected just one case of the disease.
“The patient, a 31-year-old man, began experiencing symptoms on 5 April and after more than a week of care at home, sought treatment at a local health facility. On 21 April, the patient was admitted to an Ebola treatment centre for intensive care but died later that day,” the W.H.O. wrote in a press release.
Health workers at the Mbandaka health facility reportedly recognized the man’s symptoms as similar to those of the Ebola virus and “immediately submitted” his health samples to test for the disease, later confirming that he contracted Ebola.
DRC health officials are currently probing the source of Mbandaka’s latest Ebola outbreak, which marks DRC’s “sixth since 2018 alone – the most frequent occurrence in the country’s Ebola history,” according to the W.H.O.
DRC’s Equateur Province previously declared Ebola outbreaks in 2020 and 2018. The 2020 epidemic produced 130 Ebola cases while the 2018 outbreak caused 54 infections of the disease. Mbandaka’s current Ebola epidemic marks DRC’s 14th Ebola outbreak since the scientists first discovered the deadly disease in 1976 near the DRC’s Ebola River (DRC was then known as “Zaire”).
The “Ebola virus disease (EVD),” as it is officially termed by the W.H.O., is “a rare but severe, often fatal illness in humans.” Wild animals may transmit Ebola to humans, who may then spread the disease to fellow humans via direct physical contact, such as through mucous membranes or broken skin. Human-to-human transmission of Ebola may occur through the exchange of “blood or body fluids of a person who is sick with or has died from Ebola … [or] objects that have been contaminated with body fluids (like blood, feces, vomit) from a person sick with Ebola or the body of a person who died from Ebola,” according to the W.H.O.
Ebola has an average fatality rate of about 50 percent, though previous outbreaks of the disease have demonstrated fatality rates varying from 25 percent to 90 percent.
The W.H.O., which is the international public health body of the United Nations (U.N.), said on April 23 it plans to support a local vaccination drive against Ebola in Mbandaka in the coming days.
“The country [DRC] already has stockpiles of the rVSV-ZEBOV Ebola vaccine available in the cities of Goma and Kinshasa. Vaccines will be sent to Mbandaka and administered through ‘ring vaccination’ strategy—where contacts and contacts of contacts are vaccinated to curb the spread of the virus and protect lives,” the W.H.O. reported on Saturday.
The. W.H.O. referred to “rVSV-ZEBOV-GP,” or the research name of an anti-Ebola vaccine marketed as “Ervebo.” The European Medicines Agency (EMA), which is the official health regulator of the European Union (E.U.), approved Ervebo on November 11, 2019, marking “the first time any immunization against Ebola has passed this hurdle,” the British academic journal Science reported.
“The decision by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) to allow US pharmaceutical company Merck to market its vaccine means that the product can now be stockpiled and, potentially, distributed more widely than it is now, particularly in Africa,” Science observed at the time.
Erbevo was first patented in 2003 and until late 2019 was administered on an emergency basis to quell specific and acute Ebola outbreaks across Africa.