The Minister of Public Health of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Dr Oly Ilunga Kalenga, has informed the World Health Organization (WHO) of “an outbreak of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD)” in Likati health district (Aketi, Bas-Uélé province), more than 1300 kilometres from Kinshasa in the northern DRC, following confirmation of the disease by the National Biomedical Research Institute (INRB), the national reference laboratory. ‘‘Of the five blood specimens taken from suspected cases and analysed at INRB, one has tested positive for Ebola virus (Zaïre serotype) using real-time polymerase chain reaction,’’ the Minister of Public Health indicated in a letter to the WHO representative in the DRC, and requested ‘‘support from WHO to strengthen the response to this outbreak’’. Since 22 April 2017, 9 suspected EVD cases have been reported including 3 deaths in Likati health district, i.e. a case-fatality rate of 33.3%, according to an official assessment on 11 May 2017.
‘‘The WHO Country Office in the DRC is working closely with the national and provincial authorities and with the WHO Regional Office for Africa, WHO headquarters in Geneva and all other partners to facilitate deployment of health workers and protective kits in the field to strengthen epidemiological surveillance and rapidly control the outbreak’’, says Dr Yokouidé Allarangar, WHO representative in the DRC. Dr Allarangar also announced that Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, would arrive in Kinshasa this weekend to attend a coordination meeting of the national committee at the Ministry of Health to deal with this emergency and ensure that WHO provides all necessary assistance to the DRC.
WHO has also drawn up a comprehensive logistics plan to meet urgent requirements. ‘‘The first teams of epidemiologists, biologists, and experts in the areas of social mobilization, risk communication and community engagement, and also personnel specializing in water, hygiene and sanitation, are scheduled to reach the affected area today or tomorrow via Kisangani’’, the administrative centre of Tshopo (350 kilometres from Buta), Dr Allarangar added. ‘‘The Likati health district is in a remote area, but contact tracing is essential to contain the outbreak in its focus; the DRC can rely on very experienced health workers for this purpose.’’ Dr Allarangar also appealed to other partners to work with the country to put in place an appropriately coordinated multisectoral approach. Médecins Sans Frontières, the NGO ALIMA, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the Gavi Alliance, the World Food Programme/United Nations Humanitarian Air Service (WFP-UNHAS), and the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) are now standing ready to lend their support to the authorities in the DRC.