United Nations informed of Ebola virus outbreak in northern DR Congo

"Our country must confront an outbreak of the Ebola virus that constitutes a public health crisis of worldwide significance", the DRC health ministry wrote in a statement about the outbreak.

The said outbreak affects the Nambwa health district in the province of Bas-Uélé.

The WHO later said that the health authorities in the DRC confirmed that a total of three people have died and six others have come down with an illness believed to be due to Ebola virus infection, The Guardian reported.

"Two contacts of this case are being investigated: a person who took care of him during transport to the health care facility, he has since developed similar symptoms, and a moto-taxi driver who transported the patient to the health care facility", it said, adding that the taxi driver had died.

"The port health officials are always at alert and we will also inform them of the need to increase their surveillance".

Though the virus is highly contagious and deadly, the DRE government has urged the population not to panic. Thus, the health authorities in the country have considerable experience managing outbreaks.

Experts say the 2014 DRC outbreak was not linked to a much larger outbreak that killed 11,000 people in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, beginning in 2013. The last outbreak of the disease killed at least 11,300 people in West Africa.

On Friday, the GAVI global vaccine alliance said 300,000 emergency vaccine doses for Ebola are available in the event of another widespread outbreak, Reuters reports.

The first Ebola outbreak in Congo occurred in 1976, according to the WHO.

The vaccine, known as rVSV-ZEBOV, was shown to be highly protective against Ebola in clinical trials published last December.

"WHO and partners are completing the epidemiological investigation to better understand the extent of the current outbreak and who are potentially at risk of Ebola", World Health Organization spokesperson Tarik Jasarevic told CIDRAP News.

The WHO was widely criticized for failing to respond quickly to the epidemic.

Funeral rituals in which relatives and friends touch the body of the dead play an important role in transmission, as does handling dead or living animals carrying the virus.

  • Leroy Wright