Ebola, measles and COVID-19 - dangerous outbreaks in the Congo
Another Ebola outbreak has occurred in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). At the same time, the new corona virus is also in circulation and the country is struggling with a massive measles epidemic.
Actually, the Ebola epidemic in the Congo was almost over after 22 months. A total of 2,268 fatalities have so far been recorded in the course of the outbreak. Several new infections have now occurred on the other side of the country and COVID-19 has also reached the Congo. In addition, a measles epidemic has been raging for two years, which has already claimed thousands of lives. The combined outbreak is threatening to exacerbate the situation, even if Health Minister Eteni Longondo hopes to contain the new Ebola outbreak quickly.
Last outbreak almost over
Numerous Ebola outbreaks have occurred in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the past decades. The last one started in 2018 and focused on the north Kivu province in the east of the country. This is considered to be almost over - if there are no new cases by June 25, the goal would be achieved. However, six new cases, including four deaths, have now been reported near Mbandaka in the Equateur province, 1000 kilometers west of North Kivu province, reports the British Medical Journal (BMJ).
Transmission from the animal world
The new outbreak is the eleventh in the Congo and Mbandaka was already affected by the ninth Ebola outbreak. It is therefore not assumed that the new infections from North Kivu were introduced, but a transmission from the animal world (zoonotic transmission) on site is considered likely. The natural host of the virus remains unknown, but bats are the main suspects and it is believed that most of the Congo is within the potential zoonotic transmission zone.
Several outbreak events in parallel
With the new Ebola infections, the search for contact persons has already started and special teams have been sent out to combat the new outbreak, reports the BMJ. Accompanying this, however, the health authorities still have to curb the coronavirus and more vaccinations would be necessary to combat the measles epidemic.
COVID-19 well under control so far
To date, 3,495 COVID-19 infections and 75 related deaths have been reported in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. With a population of around 86 million, this is a gratifyingly small number, which is also attributed to the extensive measures to contain the virus. However, these measures make the fight against measles more difficult, the warning in the BMJ.
Dramatic measles epidemic
According to the journal, 6,600 people have died of measles since the measles epidemic began in January 2019 - almost all of them were small children. Effective containment of the epidemic could only be achieved through vaccination, but public distrust of medical personnel and vaccinations has increased significantly in recent years.
"Vaccination efforts against measles and various other diseases had already stalled in the first two months of this year," reports the BMJ. According to UNICEF, polio, chickenpox, yellow fever, hepatitis B, diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough and meningitis are also at risk in the country.
Vaccination campaigns difficult to implement
Vaccination campaigns are difficult to implement in the Democratic Republic of the Congo anyway. For example, the country only has 2200 kilometers of paved roads and it is already an enormous challenge to cool vaccines during the long transport. And the measures required to curb COVID-19 "have an impact on the entire measles control process, including the transportation of vaccines, putting together special teams and conducting vaccination campaigns," said Emmanuel Lampaert, Coordinator for Doctors Without Borders in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
"Every delay and every obstacle increases the risk that the measles epidemic will spread and kill even more children," says Lampaert. The same was observed during the last Ebola outbreak when the measles vaccination was interrupted. This caused the disease to flare up again. The combined outbreak could lead to a significant worsening of the situation, warns the expert. (fp)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
Dipl. Geogr. Fabian Peters
- British Medical Journal: DRC faces new Ebola outbreak, covid-19, and measles all at once (published 04.06.2020), bmj.com