Anxiety may soon spread across countries in Africa as two new Ebola virus disease have been confirmed by a laboratory report in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), according to a source from the Ministry of Health on Tuesday.
The Ministry source told News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that the two cases were confirmed by the laboratory of the National Institute of Biomedical Research in Equateur Province, North-western DRC.
Ebola caused the death of 11,000 people between 2014 and 2015 mainly in Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia. It killed more than 40 people in DR Congo in its last outbreak in that country in 2014.
According to records, of the nine people suspected to have contracted the deadly virus this time, three died, with one case of Ebola confirmed through tests at the national laboratory in the capital Kinshasa, WHO Congo representative Allarangar Yokouide was quoted to have said in a statement.
People began to get sick on or after April 22 in Bas-Uele province in the country’s far north, he added. The region affected lies 1,300km north-east of Kinshasa, close to the border with the Central African Republic.
It is in a very remote zone, very forested, so we are a little lucky. But we always take this very seriously,” WHO Congo spokesman Eric Kabambi was also quoted to have said.
The WHO described the outbreak as “a public health crisis of international importance,” adding that the first teams of experts, including epidemiologists, biologists and hygiene specialists had been dispatched and were due to arrive in the affected region by Friday or Saturday.
While there is need for worry about this latest outbreak due to Ebola’s potency to quickly kill many people at a short while, report reminded that DR Congo has in the past proved that it the capacity to curtail the virus as it has done in the past.
“The country has stamped out more Ebola outbreaks than any other place on earth. It is well practiced in fighting the deadly virus,” the report suggested.
Ebola was first identified in DR Congo (then Zaire) in 1976. Since then, there have been at least eight occurrences in the country. NAN reports that the last was in 2014, when – at the same time – parts of West Africa were fighting a separate outbreak, the worst in history.
DR Congo was able to bring an end to its epidemic within four months. In West Africa, which had never experienced an Ebola outbreak before, it took two years.
This time, for the first time, health officials have another weapon they can use. The world has an experimental vaccine that could be deployed if needed
Nigeria had its own ugly experience with Ebola virus when on July 20, 2014, a sickly traveler from Liberia known as Patrick Sawyer arrived at the international airport in Lagos and was confirmed to have Ebola virus disease after being admitted to a private hospital.
At the last count, about 72 persons were confirmed to have been exposed to the virus because they one way or the other had contact either directly with Sawyer or those that had contact with him at the airport and the hospital.
The then Federal Ministry of Health, the Lagos State government and the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) together declared an Ebola a national emergency. The government also executed rapid response actions using all available public health assets that were available.
On July 23, the Federal Ministry of Health, with the Lagos State government and international partners, activated an Ebola Incident Management Center as a precursor to the current Emergency Operations Center (EOC) to rapidly respond to this outbreak.
Patrick Sawyer died on July 25 with 19 cases confirmed nationwide while 894 contacts identified and followed during the response. Eleven patients with laboratory-confirmed Ebola were discharged.
The virus also killed nine other Nigerians including Stella Adadevo, a nurse who threw her life on the frontline to ensure that Sawyer did not leave the hospital to spread the virus to Nigerians.
Nigerian government was later commended by several world bodies and countries including WHO and the United States government for the efficiency with which the virus was fought and defeated by the country.