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DR Congo declares Ebola resurgence after new case confirmed

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
A healthcare worker inoculates a man for Ebola suspicion to take precautions against the disease in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. (Photo by Reuters)

Health authorities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo declared a resurgence of Ebola virus after a new case was confirmed in the country’s eastern province of North Kivu.

The new case was identified after samples from 46-year-old woman in Beni, a town located in North Kivu, tested positive, the World Health Organization (WHO) said in a statement on Tuesday.

She received care at the Beni Referral Hospital, initially for other ailments, but subsequently exhibited symptoms consistent with Ebola virus. The patient died on August 15.

Both the Beni and Goma branches of the country’s National Institute of Biomedical Research (INRB) confirmed Ebola virus in samples taken from the patient, the statement added.

Analyses showed that the case was genetically linked to the 2018-2020 Ebola outbreak in North Kivu and Ituri provinces which killed nearly 2,300 people, the statement read.

WHO staff and local health authorities said that contact tracing and monitoring is underway and they are still determining the vaccination status of the deceased woman.

At least 131 contacts of the woman have been identified, including 60 front-line healthcare workers, 59 of whom are vaccinated against Ebola.

The statement also said that two hundred vaccines will be sent to the area this week to begin a vaccination campaign to curb the spread.

“Ebola resurgences are occurring with greater frequency in the Democratic Republic of the Congo which is concerning,” Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa said.

However, she expressed confidence in health authorities in North Kivu who “have successfully stopped several Ebola flare-ups and building on this expertise will no doubt bring this one under control quickly.”

Congo's dense tropical forests are a natural reservoir for the Ebola virus, and according to WHO, the Central African country has had more Ebola outbreaks than any other country since the virus was first discovered near the Ebola River in the DRC's northern region in 1976. Since then, the DRC has experienced 14 outbreaks of Ebola in total.  

Ebola virus disease (EVD) is a fatal illness, with fatality rates varying from 25% to 90% in previous outbreaks.

The virus is transmitted to people from wild animals and spreads in the human population through human-to-human transmission.

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