Officials in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, or DRC, announced Tuesday afternoon in a press release that preliminary laboratory results indicated a cluster of Ebola virus cases in North Kivu province.
“Ebola is a constant threat in the DRC,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general, said in the release. “What adds to our confidence in the country’s ability to respond is the transparency they have displayed once again. Working closely with the Ministry of Health and partners, we will fight this one as we did the last.”
Provincial Health Division of North Kivu notified the DRC Ministry of Health of 26 cases of fever with hemorrhagic signs, with 20 deaths. Six samples were sent to the Institut National de Recherche Biomédicale in Kinshasa, where four tested positive for Ebola virus.
Officials said most cases are in the Mangina health area, roughly 30 kilometers from the city of Beni, which officials said is an “active conflict zone,” making it difficult to reach the affected population.
Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa, said health officials got a “head start” in responding to the cluster with staff and equipment that were still in place from the last outbreak, which ended little over a week ago.
The last outbreak, the ninth in the DRC’s history, left 33 people dead, with 54 total infected. Officials said at the end of the outbreak they did not anticipate flare-ups being a concern following the use of an experimental vaccine for the first time.
“Although we did not expect to face a tenth epidemic so early, the detection of the virus is an indicator of the proper functioning of the surveillance system put in place by the General Directorate for Disease Control,” Oly Ilunga Kalenga, the DRC’s health minister, said in a press release.
“All the usual components of the epidemic response are activated, namely laboratory, medical care, epidemiological surveillance, social mobilization, and logistics,” he added. “In addition, due to the security situation in the affected areas, a new security component has been put in place to ensure the protection of the deployed health care providers and the population,” he added.
At this time, DRC officials are calling this cluster a “new epidemic,” and say that at this stage there is no indication that this cluster of cases is related to the latest outbreak. – by Caitlyn Stulpin
Disclosures: Tedros, Moeti and Kalenga report no relevant financial disclosures.