Congo-Kinshasa: DR Congo Reports Fresh Resurgence of Ebola in Northwest

A World Health Organization Ebola vaccination team works in Butembo in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in January 2019.

Five new cases of Ebola have been declared in the north-western region of the Democratic Republic of Congo, according to Health Minister Eteni Longondo, who said four of the five cases had already died.

"The National Institute of Biomedical Research (INRB) has confirmed to me that samples from Mbandaka tested positive for Ebola," Longondo announced at a press conference on Monday.

A sixth case has been added since Monday morning.

"We will send them the vaccine and medicine very quickly," he added, saying that he was going to visit Mbandaka, the capital of Equateur Province, at the end of the week.

Ebola, a deadly hemorrhagic fever, had already hit the region in May 2018, when 33 people died and 21 recovered in the span of three months.

Scientists believe that the swift use of a new vaccine helped to end the outbreak quickly.

The World Health Organzation's head Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus reaffirmed on social media that there is already a WHO team in place to support the government health team already there.

.@WHO already has staff in Mbandaka, #DRC supporting the new #Ebola outbreak response. This outbreak is a reminder that #COVID19 is not the only health threat people face. WHO is continuing to monitor & respond to many health emergencies. - Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (@DrTedros) June 1, 2020

"This is a province that has already experienced the disease. They know how to respond. They started the response at the local level yesterday," Longondo said.

Mbandaka is a bustling transport centre on the Congo River with a population of more than one million.

In the east of the country, the epidemic has killed some 2,280 people since August 2018, mainly in North Kivu province, and later hit Ituri.

Complicating health matters further, the eastern regions have been dealing with violence for more than 20 years as armed groups operate in the area.

Officials had initially hoped to declare Ebola over in the east by April, but a new case was declared. In order to declare an area Ebola-free, there must be no new cases for 42 days.

This is the 11th Ebola outbreak in the DRC since 1976.

It comes at a time when DRC is also battling the Covid-19 pandemic, with 3,195 people ill with the virus and 72 deaths reported in official figures out Monday.

A measles epidemic is also ravaging the eastern part of the country, where some 310,000 suspected cases have been reported.

"I ask the population to be calm and to continue to respect hygiene measures. Regularly wash your hands with soap. Don't greet with your hands. Don't touch ill or dead people who had a fever or bleeding," added Health Minister Longondo.

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