Since the 2014 West African Ebola outbreak that claimed more than 11,000 lives, the mere mention of Ebola hemorrhagic fever is enough to send the public health world into a frenzy. The thought of another outbreak is alarming enough, but an actual confirmed epidemic calls for immediate action. Since May 2018, there have been two confirmed outbreaks of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The first occurred in the northwest region of the country, with 54 cases and was declared over on July 24, 2018 (1). Relief swept through the health community, but this was short-lived because on August 1, 2018, a new Ebola outbreak was confirmed by the World Health Organization (WHO), in the northeast region of the country (2). More than a month into this current epidemic, the number of cases has surpassed the previous outbreak, with no definite end in sight.
As of September 24th, 2018, eleven cities have reported cases of Ebola, including Masereka, Kalunguta, Beni, Butembo, Goma, Oicha, Mabalako and Musienene in North Kivu, and Mandima, Komanda and Tchomia in Ituri. There have been 119 confirmed cases of Ebola in the North Kivu and Ituri provinces along the Ugandan border, 69 of which have died from the infectious disease (3). Simultaneously, there are 31 probable cases and 9 suspected cases, of which 31 have died (3). Promisingly, there have been 41 cases of Ebola that have been cured (3). Most Ebola cases have been reported in Mabalako, where there have been 69 confirmed cases and 44 confirmed deaths (3).
Despite advances in the development of a vaccine for the treatment of Ebola, this particular outbreak has a unique challenge. Physicians and public health workers during this outbreak face red zones around the city of Oicha and the Ituri province, making infiltration dangerous. A red zone is a region deemed unsafe to travel by the United Nations, with a high risk of attack and the recommendation that people should not enter the area under any circumstance. Both Oicha and Ituri are active militant zones. However, with this outbreak, there is no choice but to risk safety in order to deliver life-saving care and begin work on tracking the disease. For protection, World Health Organization workers require an armed escort through these to deliver vaccines and prepare outposts for controlling the epidemic (4). The UN peacekeeping force, which has around 20,000 personnel in the DRC has provided critical support in allowing medical teams to reach these regions (5).
For the most current Ebola case counts and updates from HealthMap, check out our Ebola timeline at http://www.healthmap.org/ebola/#timeline .
[Article was updated from its original content on 25 September 2018 – to include updated case counts]