There is an Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the World Health Organization announced Friday.
The epidemic, which is currently small, is in Bas-Uele province, near the northern border with the Central African Republic. To date there have been nine suspected cases, three of whom have died. The first case dates back to April 22.
Dr. Oly Ilunga Kalenga, the minister of public health, informed the WHO of the outbreak. Testing of samples from five of the sick was conducted at the country’s National Biomedical Research Institute.
The outbreak is caused by the Zaire species of the virus — the same strain that was responsible for the massive West African outbreak in 2014-15. In some respects, that is good news. A
vaccine to protect against the Zaire virus was tested and found to be effective in the West African outbreak and supplies of it have been stockpiled.
The first teams of epidemiologists, social mobilization, and risk communication experts as well as specialists in hygiene and sanitation are expected to reach the outbreak setting by Saturday, the WHO statement said.
The Democratic Republic of Congo has experience containing Ebola outbreaks. The first known outbreak of the deadly disease occurred there in 1976, in Yamuku. A total of 318 cases were recorded in that outbreak, including 280 deaths.
The country has fought seven outbreaks before the current one; the most recent was between August and November of 2014, and involved 66 cases.
In the early days of the world’s experience with Ebola, outbreaks in DRC numbered in the hundreds of cases — which was large at the time. But the three outbreaks in DRC in the past decade involved fewer than 100 cases each.
The largest known outbreak of Ebola was the 2014-2015 West African epidemic. More than 28,600 people were infected and more than 11,300 died.