The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is experiencing a new outbreak of Ebola which may have claimed the lives of 17 people so far.
The health ministry has confirmed the deaths in a statement: “Our country is facing another epidemic of the Ebolavirus, which constitutes an international public health emergency. We still dispose of the well-trained human resources that were able to rapidly control previous epidemics.”
Local health officials in the Ikoko Impeng village of Bikoro observed some 21 people who had been displaying signs of hemorrhagic fever, prior to the outbreak. Seventeen from the group died but, since Ebola is a type of hemorrhagic fever, it is unclear whether the disease was responsible for the deaths.
"Since notification of the cases on 3 May, no deaths have been reported either among the (hospitalized) cases or the healthcare personnel," the health ministry's statement said.
This new resurgence of the virus is the ninth time Ebola has been recorded in the DRC. Last year eight people died in an outbreak in the region.
Officials from the World Health Organization, along with other medical professionals, have been dispatched to the DRC since Saturday. Two of five collected samples, done by the groups, returned positive results for the Zaire strain of the deadly virus, The Associated Press stated.
Bats, which can host the Ebola virus without dying, are believed to be a long-distance transporter of the deadly virus, according to a Reuters report. Ebola spreads to humans mainly through infected bushmeat. Ebola was first discovered in 1976. The virus can be contracted by humans through contact with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected animals.
The Ebola virus fatality rate is about 50%, according to the WHO. The organization has released US$1 million from its contingency fund for emergencies to help Congo contain the virus.
"WHO is closely working with other partners, including MSF, to ensure a strong response to support the government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to prevent and control the spreading of the disease from the epicenter," Allarangar Yokouide, WHO official in Congo, said.
A major Ebola epidemic ravaged West Africa two years ago, killing more than 11,300 people and infecting about 28,600 across Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. WHO declared the region Ebola-free in 2016.
The virus can cause multiple organ failures and is passed from human-to-human through mouth, nose or broken skin with blood or other bodily fluids of those infected. Symptoms of Ebola include fever, muscle pain, and fatigue followed by vomiting, diarrhea, rashes and bleeding (both internal and external) in the gums, eyes, nasal passages and feces.
The rVSV-ZEBOV vaccine was created following the outbreak.