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Ebola case in Congo sparks fears of new outbreak

She added that none of the three suspected Ebola victims had safe burials, increasing the threat that the virus has infected their family and friends. 

Traditional funerals are a high risk for the spread of Ebola – which is transmitted through bodily fluids – as dead bodies remain contagious, and introducing infection control at burials is known to dramatically reduce the virus’ spread.  

To date, 148 contacts of the Ebola cases have been identified and asked to isolate. Vaccines from a stockpile in the DRC’s capital city, Kinshasa, are en route to Beni and a targeted immunisation campaign should start in the coming days, said Dr Braka. 

‘The health system is already stretched’

The city is in the heart of North Kivu province, where Ebola is enzootic – meaning it is present in animal reservoirs. 

Between 2018 and 2020 nearly 2,300 people in the region died from the virus in the world’s second deadliest outbreak, which proved incredibly difficult to contain in a region mired in humanitarian crisis and decades of conflict. Another outbreak which killed six was declared over as recently as May.

While it is not unusual for sporadic cases to emerge in the months following an epidemic, health authorities are unsure whether this case is new or linked to previous outbreaks. 

“Determining if the outbreaks are linked is important,” said Dr Braka, adding that samples have been sent to the National Institute of Biomedical Research in Kinshasa to sequence. “We expect that by the end of the work week we should have the results,” she said. 

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