The Democratic Republic of the Congo is in the midst of the second largest and deadliest Ebola outbreak in history. Since the first of August last year, the number of people with the disease has reached 3,000 cases and 2,000 deaths. This year’s outbreak is second only to what took place in 2014-2016 in West Africa.
The Current Outbreak
The current outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, or the DRC, encompasses three eastern Congolese provinces. The location is dangerous because it shares borders with Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda, and South Sudan, meaning the disease has the potential to spread internationally. Although the number of affected regions has increased, the epicentre of the outbreak is located in the North Kivu province. Unfortunately, the province’s conflicts have slowed the response.
The epidemic has yet to reach Kinshasa, the country’s capital, located 1,700 miles away from the North Kivu province. A technical committee, however, has organized two days of training with the capital’s health workers and reinforcing all of the entry checkpoints.
Ebola virus disease, or EVD, has symptoms such as fever, muscle pain, and fatigue. The disease then progresses to include vomiting, diarrhea, rashes, and impaired functioning of the kidney and liver. Internal and external bleeding may also occur. Because Ebola consists of similar symptoms to malaria, typhoid fever, and meningitis, all relatively common diseases in the area, it can be difficult to identify. Experts have created a set of tests to confirm the diagnosis.
The average fatality rate for the disease is about 50%. The incubation period, or the time from infection to the beginning of symptoms, lasts anywhere from 2 to 21 days. The disease can only spread once the person develops symptoms.
Treatment and Prevention
Currently, no proven treatment for Ebola exists. Researchers are testing a variety of treatments ranging from blood products to immune therapies. The experimental rVSV-ZEBOV vaccine was effective in protecting against the virus during a trial in Guinea. The vaccination is being used in the DRC now to protect people from the most recent outbreak.
Because Ebola is spread through blood and other bodily fluids of infected people, proper hygiene is the best defense. Any contaminated clothing needs to be disposed of, and hand washing hygiene is of the utmost importance.
The Democratic Republic of Congo is currently undergoing one of history’s worst Ebola outbreaks. Although new strategies, such as a vaccination, offer some hope, the disease needs to be contained. The position of the outbreak leaves other countries, and potentially the capital, vulnerable.