On Friday 12th May, the World Health Organisation announced that nine suspected cases and 3 deaths of persons with Ebola virus disease have been reported from a remote forested area in the Likati Health Zone, Bas Uele Province in the north of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, bordering Central African Republic. The Ministry of Public Health in the DRC confirmed that a single specimen tested positive of five taken from suspected cases of Ebola virus (Zaïre serotype) using real-time polymerase chain reaction at the National Biomedical Research Institute (INRB) in Kinshasa. The DRC Ministry of Health, WHO, and various NGOs are working closely to rapidly control the outbreak through strengthened epidemiological surveillance, and implementation of a comprehensive logistics plan including deployment of teams comprising experts in epidemiology, clinical management, social mobilisation and risk communication. This is the eighth EVD outbreak in the DRC since 1976. The last outbreak occurred in 2014 with 66 cases and 49 deaths.
The DRC has successfully contained previous EVD outbreaks, and has capacity and resources to respond appropriately. There is a very low risk of transmission to South Africa. However, South African Emergency Departments and clinicians are advised to be on the alert for cases of fever and/or haemorrhagic symptoms amongst returning travellers from the area. Malaria remains the commonest and most important cause of fever amongst persons returning from African destinations. South African Port Health authorities have been informed and continue to screen persons who enter via air ports for fever. No travel restrictions are in place.
Ebola virus is transmitted following direct contact with persons infected with the virus – through contaminated body fluids including blood, stool, urine, saliva and semen, or with an environment contaminated with body fluids. Symptoms develop 8-10 days after contact and include fever, weakness, myalgia, headache, sore throat, abdominal pain, rash and bleeding from mucous membranes. Treatment is supportive. Rapid implementation of infection control measures as soon as the disease is suspected is essential. Guidelines for the recognition and management of viral haemorrhagic fevers in South Africa may be found on the NICD website at https://www.nicd.ac.za/index.php/ebola-virus-disease/