18th May 2017
The WHO have confirmed the death of three individuals from Ebola in the far north of Democratic Republic of Congo. Health officials fear a severe outbreak after 19 others are suspected of contracting the disease in the Bas-Uele region, which borders the Central African Republic. 125 others are estimated to have links to the confirmed Ebola cases.
The first death in this most recent outbreak occurred on 22 April, with this only being confirmed on 12 May after laboratory tests. One of the other two deaths was that of the taxi driver who took the first man to hospital. All three deaths occurred in the Likati health district of Bas-Uele province.
Ebola is a highly infectious virus which is spread through contact with bodily fluids. Infected individuals show symptoms such as fever, headache, muscle pain, fatigue, diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and haemorrhaging. Symptoms can emerge two to 21 days after exposure.
The latest outbreak of Ebola is reported as the Zaire strain. This strain of the virus is considered to be the most dangerous. Indeed, an outbreak of this strain in Democratic Republic of Congo in 2007 had a fatality rate of 74 per cent, with 200 deaths reported. In 2014, an outbreak unrelated to the one which was ongoing in western Africa, killed 49 people out of 66 confirmed cases. Health officials were praised for limiting the impact of this outbreak. This is the country’s eighth outbreak since Ebola was first discovered in 1976, and the fourth since 2007.
The 2014 outbreak in West Africa was the worst-ever recorded outbreak of the virus. More than 11,300 people were killed, most of them in Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia; other cases were reported across the western hemisphere. Nearly 29,000 others were suspected to have been infected. The WHO called the outbreak a “public health emergency of international concern”. An experimental vaccination is being developed and is currently in the trial phase. The WHO are preparing authorisation and logistics for the vaccination to be sent to the Democratic Republic of Congo.
While fearing a potentially significant outbreak, the WHO has yet to recommend any restrictions on trade or travel to Democratic Republic of Congo. Travellers in the country and in neighbouring are advised to ensure that they follow developments closely as health officials head to the impacted region and investigations continue. Travellers are advised to maintain excellent hygiene, avoid contact with infected individuals, disinfect impacted areas, avoid contact with wild animals (including bats and monkeys), and treat injuries immediately and thoroughly. Travellers are also advised to ensure that they have the necessary insurance to cover the need for emergency care or repatriation.
It is unclear whether or not this outbreak will spread to the rest of the country or region. It should be noted that while the reported Ebola strain is considered the most dangerous, the impacted area is very remote, which may help to control its spread. Moreover, as the map above shows, outbreaks of the virus generally remain isolated to specific regions.
We would advise clients to employ enhanced security measures when visiting Democratic Republic of Congo. The level of advised security will vary depending on the area of travel. For most places, it is advisable to employ the minimum of an airport meet and greet, a security-trained driver, and executive protection. For more remote areas of the country, it may also be advisable to employ a secondary convoy vehicle or armed guards. Travellers to Democratic Republic of Congo should also consider employing travel-tracking technology with an intelligence platform for the duration of their stay in country, as well as extensive journey management planning. For travel in rural areas, it would also be advisable be employ a GPS tracker.