A new case of Ebola has been detected in the Democratic Republic of Congo‘s northwestern region, forcing health officials to implement emergency containment measures just four months after the previous outbreak ended.
The suspect, a 31-year-old man, was discovered in Mbandaka, the capital of the Congo’s Equateur region. The health ministry said in a statement that 74 of his connections are being tracked.
The patient first displayed symptoms on April 5, but did not seek care for more than a week, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). On April 21, he was admitted to an Ebola treatment center and died later that day.
“Time is not on our side,” warned WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti. “The sickness got a two-week head start on us, and we’re now catching up.”
Mbandaka, a commerce hub on the Congo River’s banks, has already dealt with two prior epidemics, in 2018 and 2020. It is a city where people live in close quarters, with road, water, and air connections to Kinshasa, the capital.
According to the WHO, attempts to limit the disease are already beginning in Mbandaka, with a vaccine program set to start in the coming days.
In recent Ebola outbreaks, vaccines have been increasingly helpful in containing the disease. During the most recent outbreak, health officials vaccinated almost 1,800 people with Merck’s (MRK.N) ERVEBO vaccine.
Congo has had 13 prior Ebola outbreaks, including one in the east in 2018-2020 that killed about 2,300 people, the second worst toll in the hemorrhagic fever’s history.
The previous outbreak, which occurred in the east as well, infected 11 people and killed six of them between October and December.