GENEVA, Aug. 27 (Xinhua) -- The World Health Organization (WHO) on Wednesday said the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) Ministry of Health notified WHO of an outbreak of Ebola virus disease occurred in its northern Equateur province.
WHO said the index case was a pregnant woman from Ikanamongo village who butchered a bush animal that had been killed and given to her by her husband. She became ill with symptoms of Ebola virus disease and reported to a private clinic in Isaka Village.
On August 11, she died of a then-unidentified haemorrhagic fever. Local customs and rituals associated with death meant that several health-care workers were exposed and presented with similar symptoms in the following week.
Between July 28 and August 18, a total of 24 suspected cases of haemorrhagic fever, including 13 deaths, have been identified. Human-to-human transmission has been established and includes the health-care personnel who were exposed to the deceased pregnant woman during surgery (one doctor and two nurses) in addition to the hygienist and a ward boy, all of whom developed symptoms and died.
Other deaths have been recorded among the relatives who attended the index case, individuals who were in contact with the clinic staff, and those who handled the bodies of the deceased during funerals. The other 11 cases are currently being treated in isolation centers.
Samples have been sent to laboratories in Kinshasa and in Gabon for confirmation of Ebola and to identify the strain. The index case and the 80 contacts have no history of travelling to the Ebola-affected countries in West Africa (Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, or Sierra Leone) or history of contact with individuals from the affected areas.
WHO said at this time, it is believed that the outbreak in DRC is unrelated to the ongoing outbreak in West Africa. This is the seventh outbreak of Ebola in this country since 1976.
The Ministry of Health of DRC has dispatched field teams to the area to monitor and evaluate the situation.
Contact tracing has begun and 80 individuals are currently being followed-up. Treatment of patients is ongoing and infection prevention and control measures are in place and are being supported by WHO with the delivery of personal protective equipment to the area.
WHO is currently monitoring the situation with the government of DRC and awaiting confirmation of the disease strain from the laboratories. A rapid response team is poised to deploy and assist DRC, if needed.