The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has confirmed one new case of Ebola barely five months after the latest epidemic of the disease in the country was declared over.
The latest patient is a three-year-old boy who tested positive near the eastern city of Beni, which was one of the epicentres of the 2018-2020 outbreak. The boy has been confirmed by Health Minister, Jean Jacques Mbungani to have died from the disease on Wednesday.
However, it is still unknown and unclear if this latest case is related to the 2018-2020 outbreak which recorded over 2,200 deaths in eastern DRC, the second deadliest on record, or separate flare-up cases recorded this year that killed six people.
The health minister made this information known on Friday. The health ministry has been able to identify about 100 people, who could have been exposed to the virus and are being closely monitored to see if they develop any symptoms.
It has been discovered also that three of the boy’s neighbours in the densely populated neighbourhood came down with symptoms consistent with Ebola last month and died, according to an internal report from DRC’s biomedical laboratory.
Following the news, the World Health Organization (WHO) released a statement stating that it was working with health authorities to investigate the case.
Since the disease was discovered in the equatorial forest near the Ebola River in 1976, the DRC Ministry of Health has recorded 12 previous outbreaks. Symptoms of the disease include severe vomiting and diarrhoea. The disease is spread through contact with body fluids.
In February, the disease reemerged in an area of North Kivu that, between August 2018 and June 2020, experienced the largest outbreak of Ebola in the history of the DRC, which was 3,470 infections and 2,287 deaths.
According to health experts, it is not unusual for occasional cases to occur following a recent major outbreak, as particles of the virus can still remain present in semen for months after recovery from an infection.
They said further that, the disease typically kills about half of those it infects although treatments developed in West Africa have significantly reduced death rates through early detections and two effective vaccines have also been used to contain outbreaks since then.