Health officials confirm an Ebola outbreak in the central African nation of Democratic Republic of Congo. The outbreak is located near the Ebola River, which gave the disease its name after it was first discovered there back in the 1970s.
Seventeen people died in the last couple of months, possibly from Ebola, although those deaths could have been from other causes such as malaria or typhoid. Only five people have been laboratory tested, and of those, two are confirmed Ebola cases.
The country’s health ministry issued a statement saying, “Our country is facing another epidemic of the Ebola virus, which constitutes an international public health emergency.”
“We still dispose of the well trained human resources that were able to rapidly control previous epidemics,” the statement continued.
The DRC suffered through nine outbreaks in the last four decades. The most recent one, which occurred less than a year ago, killed four.
Four years ago, Ebola swept through West Africa killing more than 11,000 people in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. The virus infected a number of Christian aid workers in Africa and spread to other parts of the world, including the United States.
After a harrowing two years, the World Health Organization declared West Africa Ebola-free.
Since that time, scientists developed an Ebola vaccine that is now available to the general public. In fact, authorities in the Congo approved the use of the new vaccine but apparently did not inoculate the citizens there because of geographical challenges within the country combined with the fact that recent outbreaks have been relatively minor.
Right now it’s unclear if the vaccine will be deployed. So far, the WHO is dispatching personnel and protective equipment to the DRC. The organization also released one million dollars to help control the outbreak. The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is also on the scene providing support.
The CDC says the virus is likely spread to distant areas by bats that are infected with the Ebola virus, which then bite wild animals and infect them. The virus is transmitted to humans when those wild animals are hunted and eaten for food.
Ebola is transmitted from person-to-person through direct contact or objects such as syringes. It is spread through the air or water.