Fri. Jun 2nd, 2023
A stained transmission electron microscope (TEM) of an Ebola virus virion.
enlarge / A stained transmission electron microscope (TEM) of an Ebola virus virion.

Two out of five patient samples in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have tested positive for the Ebola virus disease, prompting the DRC government to announce an outbreak, the World Health Organization confirmed on Tuesday.

The five samples all come from the iIkoko Iponge health facility near Bikoro in Equateur Province, which lies in the northwest of the country along the shores of Lake Tumba. In the past five weeks, the area has reported 21 cases, including 17 deaths, believed to be from viral hemorrhagic fever. This is a general term for illnesses with fever and bleeding caused by various viruses, including Ebola.

The WHO notes that Bikoro’s health facilities have “limited functionality” and are largely dependent on international aid and supplies. The DRC Ministry of Health tested the five patient samples at the Institut National de Recherche Biomédicale (INRB) in Kinshasa, the country’s capital.

After the DRC notified WHO of the outbreak, the international agency set up a special team of staff to coordinate the response and released $1 million in emergency funding to support response activities. The WHO is preparing to send a multidisciplinary group of experts to Bikoro in the coming days. But a group of experts, including some from WHO and Doctors Without Boarders, have already traveled to Bikoro today to rapidly scale response efforts.

“Our top priority is to go to Bikoro to work with the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo and partners to reduce the loss of life and suffering associated with this new outbreak of the Ebola virus,” deputy director general of the WHO for Emergency Preparedness and Response Dr. Peter Salama said in a press statement. “Working with partners and responding early and coordinated is vital to contain this deadly disease.”

This outbreak is the ninth for the DRC since the Ebola virus was discovered in samples from the country (then Zaire) in 1976. Ebola is endemic to the DRC and is transmitted to humans by wildlife, including primates and bats. Ebola virus disease causes fever, pain, diarrhea, vomiting, and unexplained bleeding. It spreads from person to person through bodily fluids and leads to death in about 50 percent of cases.

The latest outbreak, in 2017, was quickly suppressed with rapid, coordinated responses, the WHO notes.

By akfire1

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