The BMJ has reported that Ebola has reappeared in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) just a week after an outbreak in the western part of the country was declared over. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the virus is suspected of having caused 33 deaths, while an additional 43 suspected cases have been reported, 13 of which have been confirmed by laboratory analysis.
The new outbreak is thought to be unrelated to the previous one and is believed to stem from a new wildlife contact, which could be due to consumption of bush meat or contact with a fruit bat. The so-called ‘signal event’ was the death and unsafe burial of a 65-year-old woman in Mangina on 25 July. Seven members of her immediate family died shortly afterwards. These events were learned of by the capital’s health ministry two days after it had declared the western outbreak to be over.
Complications surround the fact that the new outbreak is in North Kivu province, a region where over 100 armed groups are believed to operate. Also, the outbreak is thought to be the Zaire strain of Ebola virus. “The bad news is that this is the deadliest variant, with a case fatality rate of over 50 per cent,” said WHO’s Head of Emergencies, Peter Salama, at a briefing in Geneva, Switzerland, on 5 August. “The good news is we do have a safe effective vaccine, though still experimental. But in Equateur we had access to contacts for our ring vaccination strategy. You can imagine the difficulty of pursuing an intricate web of contacts with the access issues we face across a war zone.”