Ebola is spreading in the western Democratic Republic of Congo, with nearly 50 known cases across a large region bordering the Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Monday.
Since officials announced the outbreak on 1 June, 48 cases have been confirmed in Congo’s Équateur Province, with a further three probable cases and 20 deaths in total, WHO’s top emergencies expert Mike Ryan said.
“This is still a very active outbreak, and I would say it is still a great concern,” Ryan told a news briefing.
The province includes part of the River Congo, he said, adding that it was a large geographical area where communities were linked and people travelled long distances.
“I would caution everyone that while the numbers in this event are low, again in the era of COVID it is very important that we do not take our eyes off these other emerging diseases and we saw in North Kivu and other previous outbreaks of Ebola that these can get out of control very easily,” he said.
Ryan was referring to a separate outbreak of Ebola in Ituri and North Kivu Provinces in eastern Congo that was declared over last month. That epidemic, the second largest on record, produced 3,463 confirmed and probable cases and 2,277 deaths over two years.
End of Ebola
The Democratic Republic of Congo said last Thursday that the second-largest Ebola outbreak on record is over after nearly two years and more than 2,200 deaths.
The country’s public health minister, Eteni Longondo, said: “Compared to previous outbreaks, this last one was the longest, the most complex and the deadliest.”
DR Congo has suffered 11 Ebola outbreaks since the virus was discovered near the Ebola River in 1976, more than double any other country.
Despite effective vaccines and treatments which boosted survival rates sharply, the outbreak dragged on as first responders struggled to gain access to virus hot spots in Congo’s restive east.
Its equatorial forests are a natural reservoir for the virus, which causes severe vomiting and diarrhoea and is spread through contact with body fluids.