DR Congo on Monday reported a fresh Ebola outbreak in the country’s northwest, just weeks before it hoped to declare the end of the epidemic.
The appearance of the deadly disease on the other side of the vast central African country comes as an added blow as it attempts to also battle the coronavirus pandemic.
Health Minister Eteni Longondo said that “four people have already died” from Ebola in a district of the northwestern city of Mbandaka.
“The National Institute of Biomedical Research (INRB) has confirmed to me that samples from Mbandaka tested positive for Ebola,” Longondo told a press conference.
“We will send them the vaccine and medicine very quickly,” he said, adding that he planned to visit the site of the outbreak at the end of the week.
The capital of Equateur Province, Mbandaka is a transport hub on the Congo River with a population of more than a million.
Equateur Province was previously hit by an Ebola outbreak between May and July 2018, in which 33 people died and 21 recovered from the disease.
“This is a province that has already experienced the disease. They know how to respond. They started the response at the local level yesterday (Sunday),” Longondo said.
The Ebola epidemic in the country’s volatile east has killed 2,280 people since August 2018, and officials had hoped to be able to proclaimed it over on June 25.
For it to be officially over, there have to be no new cases reported for 42 days – double the incubation period.
In April, the eastern epidemic was just three days away from being declared Ebola free when a new case was reported, pushing the date back.
The newest Ebola outbreak is the 11th in the Democratic Republic of Congo since 1976.
The conflict-wrecked country is also fighting its own coronavirus outbreak, recording 3195 infections with 2896 in the capital Kinshasa and 72 deaths, according to official figures released Monday.