GENEVA — The World Health Organization says expert staff and equipment have been sent to the northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo to quick-start the process of combating a new outbreak of Ebola. The last outbreak of this fatal virus in Congo was declared just a week ago.
Ebola is a constant threat in the Democratic Republic of Congo as the virus thrives in heavily forested areas. This latest outbreak is the 10th since the first one was discovered in 1976.
The World Health Organization says this new outbreak in North Kivu province is 2,500 kilometers away from Equateur Province, the site of the previous outbreak, and there is no link between the two.
WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic says the DRC Ministry of Health informed WHO Wednesday that four of six samples taken in North Kivu tested positive for Ebola virus.
He says it is crucial to gain access to the area as quickly as possible. He says having people and material in the country from the outbreak in Equateur is very helpful in tackling the outbreak.
“We really need to get into the area to do epidemiological investigations, try to find cases, try to work with health workers, to strengthen infection prevention and control measures and also to start with the contact tracing,” he said. “It is, on the other hand, worrying that this area is a conflict zone. It is an area with lots of displacement, so the access can be hampered in that way.”
The virus was discovered in a village near the city of Beni in North Kivu, which hosts more than one million displaced people. The province shares borders with Rwanda and Uganda, with a lot of cross-border movement due to brisk trade.
Jasarevic says WHO will work with these neighboring countries to try to prevent the virus from crossing over.
He says identifying the type of Ebola virus that is circulating is a priority, as that will tell scientists whether the vaccine used to help contain the outbreak in Equateur province can also be used in North Kivu.
– Lisa Schlein I VOA