“Time is not on our side,” said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. “The disease has had a two-week head start and now we are trying to catch up. The positive news is that DRC health authorities have more experience than anyone else in the world in rapidly controlling Ebola outbreaks.” .
So far, only one case has been confirmed, the WHO said. The patient was a 31-year-old man who began experiencing symptoms on April 5. He sought treatment at a local health center after being ill for more than a week at his home. The man was admitted to an Ebola treatment center on April 21 for intensive care, but he died later that day, the WHO said.
Health workers recognized the symptoms of Ebola and “immediately” sent samples for testing, the WHO said. “Efforts are already underway to stop the current outbreak,” the organization said, and vaccinations will begin in the coming days.
“Many people in Mbandaka are already vaccinated against Ebola, which should help reduce the impact of the disease,” Moeti said. “Everyone who was vaccinated during the 2020 outbreak will be revaccinated.”
The deceased patient received “a safe and dignified burial, which involves modifying traditional funeral ceremonies in a way that minimizes the risk of contagious fluids infecting those in attendance,” the WHO said. Anyone who was in contact with the patient is being identified and will be monitored, and the health center where the patient received care has been decontaminated, the organization added.
Previous outbreaks in Equateur province were in 2020, when 130 cases were reported, and in 2018, when 54 cases were recorded, the WHO said.
“Ebola is a serious, often fatal disease that affects humans and other primates,” the WHO added. Case-fatality rates have ranged from 25% to 90% in previous outbreaks, but effective treatment is available, and if patients receive it early, their chances of survival “improve significantly,” he said.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo has had more Ebola outbreaks than any other country since the virus was first discovered near the Ebola River in the northern region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1976.