Three people have died, and nineteen suspected to be infected with Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The World Health Organization (WHO) has confirmed the outbreak of Ebola after receiving reports of a cluster of cases.
The first case occurred April 22nd when a 39 year old symptomatic male traveled a great distance to reach a medical facility who tested him for Ebola. By the time the results came back he was deceased and had exposed multiple people who assisted him with his travel and then medical care. According to the CDC, six others had fallen ill in the same village and were taken care of by individuals who most likely did not wear protective gear.
The DRC had not seen any cases since 2014. The West African Ebola epidemic spanned from the end of December 2013 to 2016 infecting over 28,000 people and killing over 11,000. The epidemic was one of the worst in Ebola’s history and its high mortality rate took countries such as Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia by surprise. A vaccine was not available, and medications such as Zmapp were experimental and not in great supply. Hospitals were not stocked with protective clothing able to prevent the minutest of exposure to the deadly virus. Travel bans were difficult to institute and top that off with a lack of education on what we were dealing with and it was unfortunately the perfect storm for one of the deadliest outbreaks in recent history.
Ebola however emerged far before this. Ebola was named after the Ebola River in Zaire and was first recognized in 1976 when it caused two outbreaks affecting 318 and 284 people respectively . Multiple small outbreaks occurred since then according to the CDC:
1995 Democratic Republic of Congo infected 315
2000 Uganda infected 425
2007 Democratic Republic of Congo infected 264
And multiple smaller sporadic cases occurred in the years between.
In January 2016 health officials declared the Ebola outbreak had ended, however cases continued to smolder.
Why this occurs is the virus may not leave the body completely. Its been found to live in semen up to a year and some survivors can suffer a reinfection months later. For example, in 2015 Dr. Ian Crozier successfully fought Ebola but two months after discharge, suffered a severe eye infection which turned out to be Ebola lurking in his eye.
A study in 2015 found Ebola be able to survive outside a human body for days and longer if within a liquid such as water or blood. Mosquitoes are not known to transmit the virus however it can live in bats as well as monkeys and apes. Pets have not been known to contract Ebola from their sick owners put its been postulated that pigs could if in contact with a victim.
Ebola is a virus from the Flavivirus family that causes a hemorrhagic fever with symptoms of sudden fever, myalgias, headache and sore throat and then progressing to nausea and vomiting, liver and kidney issues and internal and external bleeding.
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Daliah Wachs, MD, FAAFP is a Board Certified Family Physician. The Dr. Daliah Show , is nationally syndicated M-F from 11:00am-2:00pm and Saturday from Noon-1:00pm (Central) at GCN.