Ebola panic: Fears for deadly new outbreak as WHO battles new hotspot

The World Health Organization (WHO) has confirmed two Ebola-related deaths have been recorded in the Democratic Republic of Congo over the weekend. The fatalities were confirmed less than 48 hours after a new case of the disease was first detected in the city of Beni on Friday. WHO deputy incident manager Boubacar Diallo confirmed on Sunday an 11-month-old girl has become the latest victim following the death of a 26-year-old man.

The WHO is already rapidly working to try and contain an outbreak and has identified 215 people who may have come into contact with the man – including 53 health workers at three facilities.

The Ebola virus, first detected in 1976, is transmitted to humans from animals such as fruit bats, chimpanzees and gorillas.

The disease is then passed from human-to-human through blood and other bodily fluids.

Initial symptoms of the virus include a fever, sore throat and muscle pain.

More severe cases can cause skin rashes, diarrhoea and vomiting.

The largest outbreak of the Ebola virus occurred in West Africa for three years between 2014-2016 – killing more than 10,000 people.

Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea most affected by the outbreak, which at its peak had a fatality rate of 67 percent.

First discovered in 2015, the rVSV-ZEBOV vaccine has since been widely successful in treating Ebola.

The treatment has been used by health officials across Congo, however public unrest and militia attacks have prevented health workers from reaching some hard-hit areas.

On Friday, WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, played down the detection of the virus in the region as Congo remains a high risk nation.

He said: “While not welcome news, this is an event we anticipated.

“We kept response teams in Beni and other high risk areas for precisely this reason.”


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Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, has confirmed the global health body has worked in the region for the past 18 months and will continue to do so despite the worldwide coronavirus crisis.

Dr Moeti said: “WHO has worked side by side with health responders from the DRC for over 18 months and our teams are right now supporting the investigation into this latest case.

“Although the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic adds challenges, we will continue this joint effort until we can declare the end of this Ebola outbreak together.”

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