Health officials in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have confirmed a new outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus in the country’s northwest, Voice of America (VOA) reported on Monday.
The revelation comes as health authorities struggle to contain a separate Ebola outbreak in eastern DRC. The country is also currently battling a Wuhan coronavirus upsurge and the world’s largest measles outbreak, according to the report.
Authorities identified the center of the new Ebola outbreak as Mbandaka, the capital of the DRC’s Equateur province. The city is home to over one million people and is known as a transport hub, located on the Congo River. At a press conference on Monday, DRC health minister Eteni Longondo said “four people have already died” from Ebola in Mbandaka, Al Jazeera reports.
“The [DRC’s] National Institute of Biomedical Research (INRB) has confirmed to me that samples from Mbandaka tested positive for Ebola,” the minister said at the briefing.
Equateur province previously battled an Ebola spike from May-July 2018 that killed 33 people.
“This is a province that has already experienced the disease. They know how to respond. They started the response at the local level [on Sunday],” Longondo said.
According to the report, health authorities in eastern DRC have been battling an Ebola flare-up that began in 2018 and has killed 2,280 people. This outbreak emerged in North Kivu province in August 2018. It then spread to the neighboring Ituri province, the site of ongoing inter-ethnic violence which further complicates the disease’s spread there. A recent U.N. report said that from March to May, over 200,000 people were displaced by violence from tribal hostilities in Ituri province.
In March, DRC health officials had expected to declare the Ebola outbreak in Eastern DRC officially over after the last known Ebola patient was discharged from treatment. On April 10, however, a new case of Ebola was recorded in North Kivu province.
The ongoing epidemic in eastern DRC is the world’s second-largest Ebola outbreak on record and the country’s single worst. The severity of the outbreak has exhausted the country’s hospitals. In March, a U.N. report declared the DRC’s healthcare system to be “on life support.”
A recent coronavirus flare-up in the DRC further threatens the country’s public health. At press time on Tuesday, the DRC had recorded 3,326 infections and 72 deaths from the Chinese coronavirus.