Global health officials are monitoring a possible resurgence of the Ebola virus in the Democratic Republic of Congo amid reports of an outbreak of the feared contagion near the country’s northern border.
Public health officials in the DRC have reported at least 43 cases of suspected Ebola and four deaths. While only two of the cases have been positively confirmed in a laboratory to be Ebola, experts at the World Health Organization and the United States’ Center for Disease Control and Prevention are closely monitoring the situation and teams are already in the isolated region in an attempt to contain the outbreak.
‘‘The Likati health district is in a remote area, but contact tracing is essential to contain the outbreak in its focus; the DRC can rely on very experienced health workers for this purpose,” Yokouidé Allarangar, WHO representative in the DRC, said in a statement earlier this month.
This is the eighth epidemic of Ebola in the DRC since the discovery of the virus in 1976 and comes just three years after an outbreak in West Africa killed over 11,000 people and created a global panic. It is still unclear how Ebola outbreaks begin, but researchers theorize that it could come from people eating infected pieces of “bush meat” – the meat of primates and other wild animals sold in local markets – or from bats carrying the carrying the virus.
The DRC may have past experience dealing with Ebola outbreaks, but experts contend that the remoteness of the outbreaks’ hot zone – the northeastern Bas-Uélé province – and the country’s ongoing civil conflict make efforts to contain the virus’ spread difficult.
“The logistics are difficult,” Jesse Goodman, director of Georgetown University’s Center on Medical Product Access, Safety and Stewardship, told Fox News. “It’s a real challenge, but they have identified the area and are tracking a large number of contacts.”