WHO: DRC Ebola outbreak not linked to West Africa; cases jump

Ebola virus
Ebola virus

Highly magnified view of Ebola virus particles emerging from an infected cell., NIAID

The World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed today that the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is unrelated to West Africa's epidemic but reported that cases and deaths and deaths in DRC have jumped in the past 5 days.

The response team in the DRC has found 53 cases that meet the Ebola case definition, including 31 deaths, the WHO said in a statement today. That compares with 24 suspected cases and 13 deaths reported on Aug 27.

Seven cases have been in healthcare workers, the WHO said, adding that 160 patient contacts are being traced. The outbreak is in the Boende district of Equateur province in northwestern DRC.

Same species, different lineage

Genetic sequencing of the DRC virus has revealed that it is the Zaire species—the same as in West Africa—but belongs to a lineage most closely related to a virus from the 1995 Ebola outbreak in Kikwit, DRC, the agency said.

"Results from virus characterization, together with findings from the epidemiological investigation, are definitive: the outbreak in DRC is a distinct and independent event, with no relationship to the outbreak in west Africa," the WHO said.

The agency said the sequencing was done at a lab in Franceville, Gabon, where officials concluded that the virus is "definitely not derived from the virus strain currently circulating in West Africa."

Outbreak response

The outbreak started when a woman caught the virus from a game animal she butchered, the WHO said last week.

The agency said the DRC government has responded quickly to the outbreak by reactivating emergency committees at national, provincial, and local levels, setting up isolation centers, and providing community leaders with facts about the disease. The government will ensure that all burials are safe, the statement said.

The DRC, with South Sudan, is where Ebola first emerged as a human disease in 1976, and the country has had seven outbreaks so far.

See also:

Sep 2 WHO statement

Related Aug 27 CIDRAP News story

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