The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) this week reported its first cases of Ebola in North Kivu province, in the country’s east, just months after its last outbreak came to an end.
It is not yet clear whether this is the start of a new outbreak, however officials are preparing to begin an Ebola vaccination campaign following the deaths of two women who had contracted the virus. A 60-year-old female farmer died of the virus this week, following the death of a 42-year-old woman in the city of Butembo, who was the first recorded case this year.
The province’s health minister, Eugene Nzanzu Syalita, told the BBC that they would start vaccinating people in a health zone near Butembo, called Masoya. The minister did not say when this inoculation process would begin, however samples of the virus are currently being studied in the DRC’s capital of Kinshasa to determine whether the cases are a new strain of Ebola.
Syalita also said that they had traced 161 people in the area who had made contact with the first patient.
In a statement, the World Health Organization (WHO) explained that while there are epidemiologists investigating the cases on the ground, emergency response efforts have been hampered due to the ongoing insecurity caused by conflict in that particular region of the DRC.
However the WHO also stated that "it is not unusual for sporadic cases to occur following a major outbreak.”
The DRC triumphantly declared the end of it’s 11th outbreak in November last year, six months after the first case was recorded in 2020. While the resurgence of the virus could present complications in the effort to eradicate COVID-19 in the country, the country is better prepared to handle the Ebola virus thanks to an efficient response system and a vaccine.
Since the virus killed more than 11,000 people between 2014 and 2016, several vaccines have been developed to combat the epidemic, which were first used in the DRC in 2019.