Ebola Outbreak Hits the Democratic Republic of Congo
Last month, a deadly Ebola outbreak plagued a small area of Uganda, killing 14 and quickly spreading worry throughout the country. That outbreak was quickly contained, according to the World Health Organization. Now news agencies report that 10 people have died from a new Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which borders Uganda and has also had a four-decade history of periodic outbreaks of the disease.
When CNN asked World Health Organization professional, Dr. Leodegal Bazira, about the possibility of the outbreak spreading to other parts of the republic, he did not hesitate to say, “Yes.” Dr. Bazira explained why: “because it is spread by the contact, the unprotected contact with infected people.”
Ebola is a threatening hemorrhagic virus that causes quick dehydration, fever, vomiting and internal bleeding. The virus spreads quickly and health officials are often challenged to track down people with a possible infection before they spread it to others through physical contact.
The illness is extremely fatal, sometimes killing up to 90 percent of the people who contract the virus. Currently, 15 cases have been reported in the Democratic Republic of Congo and 10 of those cases ended up as fatalities. RT News network notes that the last big outbreak to occur in the country was in 1995 when it claimed the lives of 245 people.
While the outbreak in Uganda occurred just dozens of miles away from the border with the D.R. of Congo, killing 16 people in July, health officials have stated that the two strains of the virus are different and that the two outbreaks are separate phenomena.
Unfortunately, the Ebola virus has no known cure at this time and scientists are still trying to understand how outbreaks even begin. Dr. Bazira told CNN that a possible way the virus makes its way into a human’s system is by eating infected meat from local animals which then transmits the disease to humans.
The virus was first discovered near the Ebola river in 1976 and has confounded medical researchers for decades. It seems to have a very specific set of environmental needs to flourish, which limits the extent to which it can travel.
Still, the new outbreak of the deadly virus has posed serious challenges for populations in the Democratic Republic of Congo. This newest outbreak was officially announced on August 17, and the Congolese health minister said that the cases were centered around the northeastern town of Isiro. No cases have been detected beyond this region so far.
Photo Credit: Francis Hannaway