The World Health Organization on Tuesday said the Democratic Republic of Congo has declared a resurgence of the Ebola virus in the same province battered by an outbreak from 2018 to 2020.
A 46-year-old woman died on Aug. 15 at a hospital in Beni in the North Kivu province. She received care for other ailments but eventually showed signs of Ebola, a highly deadly disease that has afflicted the DRC and other African countries off and on since its discovery in the 1970s.
Authorities confirmed Ebola in a sample from the patient and said it is genetically linked to the 2018-2020 outbreak in North Kivu and Ituri provinces.
The outbreak killed two-thirds of patients — more than 2,000 people — and was the DRC’s longest and deadliest brush with Ebola. It was the worst outbreak, anywhere, since the West African crisis that killed over 11,000 people from 2013 to 2016.
“Ebola resurgences are occurring with greater frequency in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which is concerning. However, health authorities in North Kivu have successfully stopped several Ebola flare-ups and building on this expertise will no doubt bring this one under control quickly,” said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO‘s regional director for Africa.
WHO said the DRC has 1,000 Ebola vaccines in its stockpile and will send 200 to Beni this week. Once the vaccines arrive, officials will begin a “ring vaccination” strategy, in which contacts of the infected person and contacts of contacts are vaccinated to curb the spread of the virus and save lives.
Officials have identified 160 contacts of the woman who died in Beni.
WHO said the most recent flare-up of Ebola in the DRC lasted for two months in late 2021 and resulted in 11 cases and six deaths.