THE Ebola haemorrhagic fever isn’t new to the Democratic Republic of Congo; this is the ninth outbreak since 1976. But the deadly disease has entered what experts call a “new phase”, with one case recently confirmed in Mbandaka, capital of Equateur Province. The city is home to a million people and, worryingly, is connected by river to the capitals of DRC, Congo – Brazzaville, and the Central African Republic, where large, dense populations could help the disease spread.
According to the health ministry by May 17, there have been 25 deaths from 45 likely, suspected or confirmed cases.
An experimental vaccine now being distributed in Equateur offers some hope for containing the virus. Community alarm systems are another precaution, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies says.
Since it responded to all previous Ebola outbreaks in DRC, the local Red Cross has a robust network of experts across the country, said its president, Gregoire Mateso. They are already in the communities and stand ready to expand awareness-raising, meticulous surveillance, infection control and prevention in areas that are at risk of further spread of the virus. It goes without saying, but well be keeping a close eye on this one.