On May 8, 2018, the Ministry of Public Health (MoHP) of Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) declared an outbreak of Ebola virus disease (EVD) in Bikoro Health Zone, Equateur Province, in Northwest DRC. The declaration was made after lab confirmation of two cases by Institut National de Recherche Biomedicale in Kinshasa, DRC. This is the ninth outbreak of EVD in DRC since 1976, when the virus was discovered. The current outbreak is in a remote, forested area of DRC, which makes it difficult to access the region.
On May 18, 2018, the World Health Organization (WHO) convened an Emergency Committee meeting under the authority of the International Health Regulations to assess the EVD outbreak in DRC and determine if conditions warrant declaring a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). WHO can declare a PHEIC when there is a serious international public health threat. This means there is a public health risk to other countries through international spread of disease that may require a coordinated international response. The Emergency Committee determined that the conditions for a PHEIC have currently NOT been met and that there should be no international travel or trade restrictions associated with the outbreak.
Numbers of cases reported in this outbreak have been changing rapidly. According to WHO, as of May 27, 2018, there have been 54 Ebola cases reported (35 confirmed, 13 probable, 6 suspected), including 25 deaths. Most of these cases have been in Bikoro. Four cases have been reported in Mbandaka, a city of about 1.2 million people. Nine neighboring countries, including Congo-Brazzaville and Central African Republic, have been advised by WHO that they are at high risk of spread and have received equipment and personnel support from WHO.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises healthcare providers in the United States to continue to obtain a travel history from all patients seeking care. Providers should promptly isolate patients that have symptoms compatible with EVD and a recent (within 21 days) history of travel to the affected areas in the Equateur Province of DRC, pending diagnostic testing. Providers should also consider other infectious disease risks that are much more common in returning travelers, including malaria.
DRC’s MoHP is leading the response, with support from WHO, CDC, and other international partners. WHO developed a comprehensive strategic response plan that outlines key activities for rapid and localized outbreak control, including surveillance, case investigation, contact tracing, case management, safe burials, community engagement, social mobilization, and use of ring vaccination. CDC has deployed and will continue to deploy disease detectives and other experts to assist during this outbreak.
For more information about Ebola, please visit CDC’s Ebola virus disease website.