Several deaths in DRC prompt concerns of another Ebola outbreak
The recent death of a child with confirmed Ebola virus disease in the Democratic Republic of the Congo — and the deaths of three of the child’s neighbors — have raised concerns among health officials of a possible outbreak.
According to WHO, a 3-year-old male child with a laboratory confirmed case of Ebola died on Oct. 6 in North Kivu Province, which just experienced an outbreak of Ebola that killed six people and infected 12 before it was declared over in May.
The boy had symptoms that included weakness, loss of appetite, abdominal pain, breathing difficulty, dark stool and blood in his vomit in early October, WHO said. His death followed the deaths of three neighbors — a father and his two children, one of whom tested positive for malaria — on Sept. 14, 19 and 29.
The three family members were never tested for the virus and were not buried safely, according to WHO. Severe malaria, Ebola, measles, and meningitis were retrospectively listed as potential causes of their deaths, WHO said.
The deaths occurred near Beni, which was one of the epicenters of the 2018-2020 Ebola outbreak, the second largest in history. They occurred around 30 miles from Butembo, which experienced an Ebola outbreak earlier in 2021. Overall, the DRC has experienced 12 outbreaks of Ebola.
WHO said that although it is not unusual for sporadic cases of Ebola to occur after a major outbreak, it is too early to say whether the recent deaths are related to a previous outbreak. However, it expressed concern about several details of the cases, including that the patients were treated in health facilities that may not have had optimal infection prevention and control measures in place and they were not buried safely.
“Additionally ... the cases are from a health zone that is located within the densely populated city of Beni,” WHO said. “Therefore, there is a risk of ... spread to other health zones.”