A new outbreak of Ebola is hitting the northwest Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in Africa. So far there have been 17 confirmed deaths in what local officials are calling a “public health emergency with international impact.”
“Twenty-one cases of fever with haemorrhagic indications and 17 deaths” have been recorded in Equateur province, the health ministry said on Tuesday.
The World Health Organization confirmed the outbreak saying they are dispatching a team of experts that will include WHO, Doctors Without Borders and the central African country’s Provincial Division of Health.
The first multidisciplinary team comprised of experts from WHO, Médecins Sans Frontières and Provincial Division of Health travelled today to Bikoro to strengthen coordination and investigations.
“Time is of the essence,” WHO spokesperson Tarik Jasarevic told HuffPost. “The faster you get to the core of the outbreak and the quicker you get in place those necessary measures ― isolating those people who are sick, identifying contacts they know ― it [increases] the chances you have that the virus will not spread somewhere else.”
“We will gather more samples, conduct contact tracing, engage the communities with messages on prevention and control, and put in place methods for improving data collection and sharing,” said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO’s regional director for Africa. “WHO will work closely with health authorities and partners to support the national response.”
WHO released US$ 1 million from its Contingency Fund for Emergencies to support response activities for the next three months with the goal of stopping the spread of Ebola to surrounding provinces and countries.
During the 2014-2015 outbreak, 28,616 cases were reported with 11,310 deaths. It was also the first time cases of Ebola were seen in the United States, after the government refused to stop travel, ordered a stop to quarantine policies, and even flew infected patients into the U.S.