The Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) announced on Wednesday that preliminary laboratory results indicate a new cluster of cases of the deadly Ebola virus in North Kivu province.
The announcement was issued just eight days after the Ministry of Health declared the official end of an Ebola outbreak in Equateur Province, some 2,500 km from North Kivu. A total of 29 died during the most recent outbreak, which was declared over when two weeks had passed without a new case emerging, following the release of the last patient from care.
Concern heightened in the early days of the outbreak, when cases emerged in a major urban area on the Congo River.
“Ebola is a constant threat in the DRC,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO). “What adds to our confidence in the country’s ability to respond is the transparency they have displayed once again. Working closely with the Ministry of Health and partners, we will fight this one as we did the last.”
The Government informed WHO that four out of six samples tested positive for Ebola virus at the Institut National de Recherche Biomédicale (INRB) in Kinshasa but that further testing is ongoing.
“Since we are coming out of another Ebola outbreak, we have kept staff and equipment in place,” said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. “This allows us to have a head start in response to this cluster.”
The majority of the cases are in the Mangina health area which is 30 kilometres from the city of Beni. “This new cluster is occurring in an environment which is very different from where we were operating in the north-west,” said Dr. Peter Salama, Deputy Director-General of the Emergency Preparedness and Response team at WHO.
He explained that given that North-Kivu is an active conflict zone, “the major barrier will be safely accessing the affected population.”
North Kivu hosts over 1 million displaced people. The province shares borders with Rwanda and Uganda with a great deal of cross-border movement due to the trade activities, which could increase the risk of possible spread of the virus. WHO said it will “continue to work with neighbouring countries to ensure health authorities are alerted and prepared to respond”.