Health officials have confirmed a second Ebola outbreak in Congo, the World Health Organization said Monday, adding yet another health crisis for a country already battling COVID-19 and the world’s largest measles outbreak, according to the AP. Congo also has yet to declare an official end to Ebola in its troubled east, where at least 2,243 people have died since an epidemic began there in August 2018.
The United Nations Children’s Fund said that five people, including a 15-year-old girl, have died of Ebola in a fresh outbreak of the virus in the Democratic Republic of Congo; a total of nine cases total have been reported.
“Four additional people who contracted the virus – all contacts of the deceased and including the child of one of the fatal cases – are being treated in an isolation unit at the Wangata Hospital in Mbandaka,” UNICEF said in a statement. “The deaths occurred between the 18th and 30th of May but they were only confirmed as Ebola-related yesterday.”
The country’s Health Minister Eteni Longondo confirmed that “There are already four deaths and four suspected cases” who are still alive.
Earlier on Monday, embattled WHO Director-General and and Chinese PR spin guru Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus tweeted news that six cases had been reported in Mbandaka, in the country’s northwest Equateur province. It’s the country’s 11th outbreak of the potentially deadly virus, which is passed by bodily fluids and has a fatality rate of anywhere between 25% and 90%, depending on the outbreak.
The Democratic Republic of Congo has still been struggling to end an outbreak that started in 2018 in the eastern part of the country, in which 3,406 cases have been reported, with 2,243 deaths, according to WHO. There has not been a new case in the past 21 days in that outbreak and since Ebola has a 21-day incubation period, that particular outbreak may be under control but WHO waits for two full incubation periods, or 42 days, to be sure before determining that an outbreak has ended.
“The announcement comes as a long, difficult and complex Ebola outbreak in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo is in its final phase, while the country also battles COVID-19 and the world’s largest measles outbreak,” WHO said in a statement. The central African country has reported 3,195 cases of coronavirus and 72 deaths. By far the worst epidemic affecting the DRC is measles, which has infected nearly 370,000 people and killed 6,779 since 2019.
The Ebola virus lives in bats, and WHO says new outbreaks can be expected in the Democratic Republic of Congo. By far the largest epidemic of Ebola was in 2014-2016 in the West African countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. More than 28,000 people were infected in that epidemic and more than 11,000 of them died.
If that wasn’t enough, Covid-19 already has touched 7 of Congo’s 25 provinces, with more than 3,000 confirmed cases and 72 deaths. However, like many African countries Congo has conducted extremely limited testing, and observers fear the true toll may be far higher.
There’s more: while Ebola and COVID-19 have drawn far more international attention, measles has killed more Congolese than those diseases combined. WHO said there have been 369,520 measles cases and 6,779 deaths since 2019.
“This quadruple threat could prove lethal for millions of children and their families,” said Anne-Marie Connor, national director in Congo for the aid organization World Vision.