Fears of new Ebola outbreak after boy, 3, dies amid cluster of potential cases

A BOY has died of Ebola in the Congo, sparking fears of a new outbreak just five months after the most recent one ended.

The three-year-old boy died on Wednesday October 6, Health Minister Jean Jacques Mbungani said in a statement.

APButsili health center in Beni, eastern Congo, where a child died and tested positive for Ebola[/caption]

He had been taken to hospital after falling sick with various symptoms that signalled Ebola, and, after dying, tested positive for the disease.

Around 100 people who may have been exposed to the virus have been identified and will be monitored to see if they develop symptoms – including vomiting, bleeding and diarrhoea. 

But it’s feared the virus has already spread and taken the lives of several others.

Three of the boy’s neighbours had symptoms of Ebola last month before dying, Reuters reports.

None were tested for the disease, which has a fatality rate of around 50 per cent.

The toddler lived in the Butsili neighbourhood near the eastern city of Beni, North Kivu.

North Kivu only just saw the back of an outbreak that occurred between February and May 2021 in Butembo.

Eleven confirmed cases and one probable case, six deaths and six recoveries were recorded in four health zones, the World Health Organization says.

North Kivu was also plagued by the virus during the 2018 to 2020 outbreak, which saw 2,300 fatalities – the second most deadly after the 2014 to 2016 outbreak, which killed more than 11,300. 

Residents of the eastern Congolese city of Beni expressed concern this weekend, having being informed the virus has emerged once again. 

Joel Mambo told AP: “I’m concerned and I have fear because with Ebola, Covid-19 and insecurity. We don’t know how to live in Beni. Beni is no longer livable.”

But the health ministry said optimistically: “Thanks to the experience gained in the management of the Ebola virus disease during previous epidemics, we are confident that the response teams… will manage to control this epidemic as soon as possible.”

The Democratic Republic of Congo has battled 12 outbreaks of Ebola since it was first discovered in 1976.

It was not immediately known if the new case in Butsili is related to the 2021 or 2018 to 2020 outbreak.

But the WHO – which said it was collaborating with the local authorities to investigate the new Ebola case – claimed it was not unusual for sporadic cases to occur following a major outbreak.

Particles of the virus can remain present in semen for months after recovery from an infection, causing the virus to flare up in communities again.

The virus spreads through bodily fluids, including semen, saliva, breast milk and blood.

Treatments developed since the record 2014-2016 outbreak in West Africa have significantly reduced death rates when cases are detected early.

Two highly effective vaccines manufactured by Merck and Johnson & Johnson have also been used to contain outbreaks since then.

The 2018-2020 outbreak, however, became as deadly as it did because the response was hampered by mistrust of medical workers by locals, and political instability.

AP:Associated PressThe case has raised fears of an outbreak near the city of Beni, North Kivu, which was plagued with the virus in the 2018 to 2020 outbreak (pictured, an Ebola victim buried in 2019)[/caption]

APPatients wait outside Butsili health center on Saturday October 9, just three days after the three-year-old died of Ebola there[/caption]

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