Jan 5, 2009 (CIDRAP News) – The World Health Organization (WHO) recently reported that laboratory officials in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have confirmed a third case of Ebola hemorrhagic fever.
Laboratory analysis was performed at the DRC's national lab in Kinshasa, a lab in Franceville, Gabon, and at the National Institute for Communicable Diseases in South Africa, according to a Jan 2 statement from the WHO.
The Ebola outbreak in Mweka district in Kasai Occidental (West Kasai) province was first reported on Dec 26. Officials have not reported what subtype is involved in the outbreak.
The WHO said it is aware of 36 suspected cases, including 12 deaths that might be associated with the Ebola virus outbreak. However the lab in Kinshasa previously detected some Shigella (bacterial) infections, so some of the patients may have other illnesses.
Public health officials have identified 184 contacts of patients who have or had suspected Ebola infections and are monitoring their health status.
The DRC's last Ebola outbreak, in September 2007, also hit West Kasai province and also featured Shigella infections in some patients, according to previous reports. Seventeen cases and six deaths were reported in that outbreak.
The highly contagious Ebola virus is associated with a high case-fatality rate, ranging from about 50% to 90%. Early symptoms include fever, headache, joint and muscle aches, sore throat, and weakness, followed by diarrhea, vomiting, and stomach pain, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Hallmarks of Ebola infection include internal and external bleeding, and there is no vaccine or specific treatment for the disease.
In other developments, Jose Van-Dunem, with Angola's health ministry, told reporters today that Angola was closing part of its border with the DRC to block the spread of the virus, Reuters reported. The WHO, in an earlier statement on the outbreak, had said it had received no reports of international spread of the virus and advised countries not to impose trade or travel restrictions on the DRC.
Van-Dunem said the border closure is in effect for Angola's Lunda Norte province, which borders DRC's West Kasai province.
Jan 2 WHO statement
Dec 29, 2008, CIDRAP News story "Ebola strikes Congo again"