Ebola outbreak in DRC, Uganda tops 2,100 cases

PPE routine in Ebola treatment center
PPE routine in Ebola treatment center

UNMEER, Martine Perret / Flickr cc

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) confirmed 21 more Ebola cases today, which will raise the outbreak total to 2,108 cases in a 10-month-long crisis that now includes 3 cases in neighboring Uganda.

Included in today's tally are five repatriated Congolese patients who were identified in Uganda earlier this week, when a 5-year-old boy became the first person in Uganda to be diagnosed as having Ebola during this outbreak. The boy died yesterday from the disease, as has his grandmother.

An infection in his 3-year-old brother brings the cluster to eight cases, all of which are now classified as cases in Mabalako health zone by DRC health officials.

The boy—whose grandfather died of Ebola in Mabalako—and several members of his family were identified at border crossings between the two countries and initially seen and treated in Kasese, Uganda, about 140 kilometers (85 miles) from Beni, DRC.

The DRC today also confirmed 6 new Ebola deaths, bringing the outbreak fatality total to 1,411. Officials are tracking 335 suspected cases.

UNICEF response

Today UNICEF announced the launch of an emergency response plan in Uganda, which will cost $3.9 million and focus on communication, education, and sanitation.

"As our thoughts are with this young boy's family, this is a tragic reminder that even one case of Ebola is one too many," said UNICEF Representative in Uganda, Doreen Mulenga, MD in a press release.

"We must do everything possible to stop this outbreak in its tracks and prevent other needless deaths. UNICEF is intensifying its efforts to do so and minimize this outbreak’s potentially devastating impact on children and communities at-large in Uganda."

Uganda confirms 3 cases, with 1 suspected

According to the World Health Organization's (WHO's) Uganda office, there are three confirmed cases of Ebola in that country and one suspected case—involving a 23-year-old man. The confirmed cases are the index patient, his grandmother, and the boy's brother, who is being treated.

Officials are following 27 case contacts and will administer 400 donated doses of rVSV-ZEBOV vaccine in a ring vaccination effort around the case contacts. The DRC donated the vaccine to Ugandan health officials, and the ring vaccination campaign is expected to start tomorrow.

For months, Ugandan officials have prepared for an Ebola patient crossing into the country. Throughout the week, leaders have taken to Twitter to reaffirm their country's ability to handle the outbreak.

"We appeal to the public and malicious individuals to desist from spreading false rumors about the Ebola outbreak generally and on social media," said Jane Ruth Aceng, MD, Uganda's minister of health in a statement posted to Twitter. "The outbreak is REAL and we urge all residents of Uganda to remain vigilant."

Three more health workers infected in DRC

Today the DRC's health ministry confirmed that one of the new cases involves a vaccinated health worker in Mabalako.

Yesterday the ministry confirmed that 2 of 13 newly recorded cases were in unvaccinated health workers in Mabalako. One of those health workers died in in the health center where he was working, which officials consider a community death.

There are now 116 health workers infected during this outbreak, including 38 deaths.

DRC officials today said ring vaccination in their country continues, with 133,328 people so far vaccinated with Merck's unlicensed vaccine.

WHO experts to meet tomorrow

Tomorrow the WHO's Ebola emergency committee will meet to discuss the new cases in Uganda and assess if the situation now warrants a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC) under International Health Regulations.

The group declined to designate the outbreak a PHEIC in two previous meetings.

Also today, the European Union (EU) announced an additional funding package of €3.5 million ($3.95 million), of which €2.5 million ($2.82 million) is for Uganda and €1 million ($1.13 million) for South Sudan. This is in addition to the €17 million ($19.16 million) the EU has already given to the DRC since 2018.

"Our funding is helping with surveillance, work with local communities, and boosting local capacities for these countries to take timely and effective action. We are committed to continue our assistance to bring this outbreak to an end, for as long as it takes," said Christos Stylianides, the commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis management and EU Ebola, in a press release.

See also:

Jun 13 DRC update

Jun 13 UNICEF press release

Jun 12 DRC update

Jun 12 WHO Uganda situation report

Jun 13 EU press release

This week's top reads