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WHO investigates new Ebola case in Congo

October 9, 2021

Health authorities in the Democratic Republic of Congo said that 100 people were being monitored after a 3-year-old boy died from the disease this week.

A medical worker checks the quarantine area of the Matanda Hospital in Butembo, where the first case of Ebola died, in the North Kivu province of Congo Thursday, Feb. 11, 2021.
The most recent Ebola outbreak in North Kivu was declared over in MayImage: Al-hadji Kudra Maliro/AP Photo/picture alliance

The World Health Organization (WHO) said early Saturday that it was working with health authorities in the Democratic Republic of Congo to investigate a new Ebola case.

The Congolese Health Ministry reported late Friday that a 3-year-old boy, who had been hospitalized with the disease, died on October 6. 

The boy had tested positive near the eastern city of Beni, in North Kivu province. Beni was one of the epicenters of the deadly 2018-2020 Ebola outbreak.

"North Kivu has been battered by Ebola outbreaks during the past few years," said WHO's regional director for Africa, Matshidiso MoetiMoeti, "but this has built up local expertise and community awareness, paving the way for a fast-moving response."

What else do we know about the new case?

Health Minister Jean Jacques Mbungani on Friday said that following the child's death earlier this week, about 100 people who may have been exposed to the virus had been identified.

He added they were being monitored by authorities to see if they developed any Ebola symptoms.

"Thanks to the experience acquired in managing the Ebola virus disease during previous epidemics, we are confident that the response teams ... will manage to control this outbreak as soon as possible," Mbungani said.

An internal report from Congo's biomedical laboratory said that three of the toddler's neighbors had also presented symptoms consistent with Ebola last month. They died as well, but hadn't been tested for the disease.

Last outbreak declared over in May

The most recent Ebola outbreak in North Kivu ended five months ago.

It is not unusual for sporadic cases to occur following a major outbreak, health experts say. 

Congo has recorded 12 Ebola outbreaks since it was first discovered near the Ebola river in 1976. The disease spreads through contact with body fluids, and its symptoms include severe vomiting and diarrhea. 

The 2018-2020 Ebola outbreak killed more than 2,200 people. It was the second deadliest outbreak of the disease on record.

Ebola typically kills about half of those it infects, though advances in medical treatments, including highly effective vaccines, can significantly reduce death rates when detected early.

rm/fb (Reuters, AP, dpa)