New outbreak of Ebola virus disease detected in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)
On 1 June 2020, a new outbreak of Ebola virus disease was declared in Wangata Health Zone, near Mbandaka, the regional capital of Equateur Province in the western region of DRC. Since 18 May 2020, there have been six cases reported, including four deaths. Three of these cases have been laboratory-confirmed so far, with samples being sent to Kinshasa for secondary confirmation. The other three cases are probable cases.
News of this outbreak was first announced by the region’s governor, Bobo Boloko Bolumbu, on local radio and confirmed later that day by the DRC’s Minister of Health and WHO’s Director General. Response measures have been set in motion, including the testing of samples and contract tracing, with additional staff being deployed to Mbandaka on 2 June 2020.
Between May and July 2018, the ninth Ebola outbreak in the DRC took place in the same area, in and around the city of Mbandaka, leading to a total of 54 cases including 33 deaths. According to WHO, the current event seems to be separate from the tenth Ebola outbreak which has been in its final stages in the eastern part of the country almost a thousand kilometres away, with 3 463 reported cases including 2 280 deaths so far. Sequencing is ongoing to confirm this outbreak as a separate event. If confirmed, this would be the DRC’s eleventh outbreak of Ebola virus disease since 1976 when it was first discovered.
In addition to Ebola, the country is currently battling other major outbreaks such as the COVID-19 pandemic (3 195 cases including 72 deaths) and a measles outbreak (369 520 cases including 6 779 deaths). Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the country has been on lockdown since mid-March 2020, with the closure of all borders for non-essential traffic and a ban on all trips between the capital and the country’s 25 provinces.
Ebola outbreaks in the DRC are not unexpected as the virus is present in an animal reservoir in many parts of the country. Implementing response measures is crucial and a high level of surveillance is essential to detect and interrupt further transmission early. Response measures may prove to be challenging, given the other outbreaks ongoing in the country. The overall risk to the EU/EEA is very low, especially with the current limitation on travel.