Health officials in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have reported a fresh Ebola outbreak in the country’s northwest, just weeks before they hoped to declare the end of another Ebola epidemic in the country’s east.
The appearance of the deadly disease on the other side of the vast country comes as an added blow as the DRC attempts to also battle the coronavirus pandemic.
Health Minister Eteni Longondo said on Monday “four people have already died” from Ebola in a district of the northwestern city of Mbandaka.
“The National Institute of Biomedical Research (INRB) has confirmed to me that samples from Mbandaka tested positive for Ebola,” Longondo told a news conference.
“We will send them the vaccine and medicine very quickly,” the minister said, adding that he planned to visit the site of the outbreak at the end of the week.
The capital of Equateur Province, Mbandaka is a transport hub on the Congo River with a population of more than a million.
Equateur Province was previously hit by an Ebola outbreak between May and July 2018, in which 33 people died and 21 recovered from the disease.
“This is a province that has already experienced the disease. They know how to respond. They started the response at the local level yesterday [Sunday],” Longondo said.
The newest outbreak in the DRC’s northwest is the 11th in the country since scientists first characterised the disease in 1976.
Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa, said the new Ebola outbreak in Mbandaka “represents a challenge, but it’s one we are ready to tackle”.