WHO is working with the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo to control the Ebola epidemic, with more than 100 contacts of the deceased traced to date. A second person died this week in North Kivu province, the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization (WHO) said.
The Ministry of Health of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the World Health Organization (WHO), in a joint statement, revealed that a second person died in North Kivu province. She was a 60-year-old woman who died on Wednesday in the Biena district. She was related to a woman who also died after contracting Ebola and who was married to a survivor of the previous major epidemic, the statement added.
The DRC Ministry of Health has deployed a team to the region and is tracing more than 100 contacts of the two women in the health zones of Biena and Katwa. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa, said at a briefing on Thursday that the UN health agency is working in coordination with the DRC government to prevent the spread of the disease.
The two cases of Ebola were detected nearly three months after the DRC announced the end of its 11th outbreak hundreds of kilometres away in the northwestern province of Equateur, which infected 130 people and killed 55. The outbreak overlapped a previous one in the east, from 1 August 2018 to 25 June 2020, which killed more than 2,200 people, the second largest in the history of the disease and the deadliest in DRC. The last person declared cured of Ebola in Ecuador was on 16 October. Widespread use of Ebola vaccines, which have been administered to more than 40,000 people, has helped curb the disease.
Over the past year, two Ebola vaccines have been approved and distributed, including one from the pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson, which has also produced a Covid-19 vaccine that will require only one vaccine and can be stored at normal refrigeration temperatures.
The emergence of more Ebola cases could complicate efforts to eradicate Covid-19, which has infected 23,600 people and killed 681 in the DRC. A Covid vaccination campaign is expected to start in the first half of this year. Peter Piot, director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicines, told the WHO briefing that there is no reason to prevent the distribution and administration of effective vaccines against both Ebola and Covid-19.
Ebola is a haemorrhagic fever of viral origin that is spread through contact with bodily fluids. In extreme cases, it causes fatal bleeding from internal organs, the mouth, eyes or ears. The average mortality rate of Ebola is around 50%, but this can be as high as 90% in some epidemics, according to the WHO.