By: Makayla Ross
Image credit: NIH Image Gallery. CC-BY-NC.
On April 23, 2022, health authorities in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) declared an outbreak of Ebola after a case was confirmed in a northwestern city within the Equateur Province (1,2). The patient, a 31-year-old male, first experienced minor symptoms on April 5th, sought medical help on April 19th, was transferred to an Ebola treatment center on April 21st and died in isolation later that same day (1,2). Another Ebola patient died on April 25th, which was epidemiologically linked to the first case, bringing the case count for this outbreak to two (3). Health officials have already identified at least 145 contacts of the initial two cases who are being closely monitored for symptoms (3).
This outbreak represents the 14th Ebola outbreak in the DRC since 1976 and the 6th outbreak since 2018 (2). Since 2018, the Equateur Province specifically has seen two separate Ebola outbreaks, resulting in 54 cases in 2018 and 130 cases in 2020 (2). Genetic analyses have already confirmed that this outbreak was caused by a new spillover event and is therefore not a continuation of any of the province’s earlier outbreaks (1,2).
Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, the Regional WHO Director in Africa has expressed concern that the virus had “a two week head start” before it was identified in the initial case but is still hopeful that the experienced health officials in the DRC as well as the large proportion of the population who is already vaccinated will help to dispel further spread (2). The “ring” strategy of vaccination, or vaccinating contacts of cases, is set to begin in the coming days and everyone who was vaccinated in 2020 will be revaccinated (2).
National health authorities are teaming up with experts from the WHO to implement further outbreak response activities, including further testing, contact tracing, infection prevention and control, treatment, and community engagement (2).