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Ebola resurfaces

Ebola resurfaces in Équateur Province, north-western Democratic Republic of the Congo – UNICEF

KINSHASA, 1 June 2020 – The Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has confirmed the death of five people – including one 15-year-old girl – due to Ebola in Mbandaka, the capital of Équateur Province in the north-western part of the country. The deaths occurred between the 18th and 30th of May but they were only confirmed as Ebola-related yesterday. Four additional people who contracted the virus – all contacts of the deceased and including the child of one of the fatal cases – are being treated in an isolation unit at the Wangata Hospital in Mbandaka.

“UNICEF is working alongside the Government of DRC and all partners in the response to the Ebola epidemic by providing essential equipment, deploying community mobilizers, providing water and sanitation services, supporting orphans and other affected children”, said UNICEF DRC Representative Edouard Beigbeder. “In the ongoing outbreak in Eastern DRC, more children, proportionately, are being affected than in any previous Ebola outbreak, so we must ensure that preventing infection among children is central to the response in Équateur.”

UNICEF will deploy 36 staff by tomorrow to work with government partners, communities, psychologists and psychosocial workers, and non-governmental organizations to assist those infected and affected by Ebola and to raise awareness of communities of good hygiene and behavioural practices to prevent the spread of the disease.

UNICEF, through its office in Mbandaka, is on the ground to support the health authorities with the equipment (chlorine sprayers, hand-washing kits, gloves, masks, personal protective equipment) necessary to disinfect the homes of the deceased and confirmed cases.

UNICEF remains committed to supporting the government of DRC in its efforts to contain this new Ebola outbreak and limit its impact on children.

UNICEF will continue to work with Community Engagement Committees to conduct awareness campaigns and information sessions on Ebola disease prevention in schools, workplaces, churches and homes. It will also continue to provide psychosocial support to families – including children – affected by the disease, and to make water, hygiene and sanitation available in communities, schools and health centres.

The resurfacing of Ebola in Équateur comes just as DRC was approaching the end of the current outbreak in the eastern part of the country, which has killed 2,134 people and infected 3,317.  Équateur experienced a short outbreak from May to July 2018 during which 33 people died and 54 people were infected. Ebola has a mortality rate between 50 per cent and 60 per cent but can be as high as 78 per cent among children under five. The country is also battling COVID-19, and as of 31 May 2020, the COVID-19 outbreak has affected seven provinces in the DRC, with a total of 3,070 confirmed cases.

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Ebola outbreak

New Ebola outbreak detected in northwest Democratic Republic of the Congo; WHO surge team supporting the response – World Health Organization

The Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo announced today that a new outbreak of Ebola virus disease is occurring in Wangata health zone, Mbandaka, in Équateur province. The announcement comes as a long, difficult and complex Ebola outbreak in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo is in its final phase, while the country also battles COVID-19 and the world’s largest measles outbreak.

Initial information from the Ministry of Health is that six Ebola cases have so far been detected in Wangata, of which four have died and two are alive and under care. Three of these six cases have been confirmed with laboratory testing. It is likely more people will be identified with the disease as surveillance activities increase.

“This is a reminder that COVID-19 is not the only health threat people face,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “Although much of our attention is on the pandemic, WHO is continuing to monitor and respond to many other health emergencies.”

This is the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s 11th outbreak of Ebola since the virus was first discovered in the country in 1976. The city of Mbandaka and its surrounding area were the site of Democratic Republic of the Congo’s 9th Ebola outbreak, which took place from May to July 2018.

“It’s happening at a challenging time, but WHO has worked over the last two years with health authorities, Africa CDC and other partners to strengthen national capacity to respond to outbreaks,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. “To reinforce local leadership, WHO plans to send a team to support scaling up the response. Given the proximity of this new outbreak to busy transport routes and vulnerable neighbouring countries we must act quickly.”

WHO is already on the ground in Mbandaka supporting the response to this outbreak, as part of capacity built during the 2018 outbreak. The team supported the collection and testing of samples, and reference to the national laboratory for confirmation. Contact tracing is underway. Work is ongoing to send additional supplies from North Kivu and from Kinshasa to support the government-led response. A further 25 people are expected to arrive in Mbandaka tomorrow. WHO is also working to ensure that essential health services are provided to communities despite these emergency events.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo’s 10th outbreak of Ebola, in North Kivu, South Kivu and Ituri provinces, is in its final stages. On 14 May 2020, the Ministry of Health began the 42-day countdown to the declaration of the end of that outbreak.

New outbreaks of Ebola are expected in the Democratic Republic of the Congo given the existence of the virus in an animal reservoir in many parts of the country.

Note to Editors – key figures

COVID-19 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

  • As of 31 May 2020: 3195 cases have been reported, including 72 deaths.

Measles in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

  • Since 2019: 369 520 measles cases and 6779 deaths have been reported.

Recent Ebola outbreaks in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

11th outbreak: Mbandaka, Équateur province.

  • Ongoing. Declared on 1 June 2020.
  • 6 cases (3 confirmed, 3 probable). Of those, 4 people died and 2 are alive

10th outbreak: North Kivu, South Kivu and Ituri provinces

  • Ongoing. Declared on 1 August 2018.
  • 3463 cases (3317 confirmed and 146 probable). Of these, 2280 people died and 1171 survived.

9th outbreak: Mbandaka, Équateur province.

  • Declared on 8 May 2018 and ended on 24 July 2018.
  • 54 cases (38 confirmed and 16 probable). Of those, 33 died and 21 survived.

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