The recent Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo has claimed its fourth victim, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported on Sunday, May 21.
This brings the overall number of suspected Ebola cases in Africa to 37. The latest death occurred in a remote region of northeastern DR Congo, revealed the WHO.
Of the total number, two cases have been confirmed as Ebola, while another two cases, including the most recent death, are regarded as highly likely to be Ebola, said Eugene Kabambi, WHO spokesman in Congo.
Ebola Outbreak In Congo
The WHO confirmed the Ebola outbreak in Congo in a report issued May 12, after the confirmation that the fatality occurred last month in a secluded area of the Bas-Uele province was linked to this deadly disease.
The report came after the victim, a 39-year-old man who died on the way to the hospital in late April, was found to have suffered from Ebola.
Following the confirmation of the first Ebola fatality, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa, traveled to DR Congo's capital, Kinshasa, to discuss the implementation of rapid and effective strategies for stopping the Ebola outbreak.
"I am here to assure the government of DR Congo that in collaboration with the UN system and other partners, we will work together to respond to this outbreak. WHO has already mobilized technical experts to be deployed on the ground and is ready to provide the leadership and technical expertise required to mount a coordinated and effective response," said Moeti in a WHO press release.
The WHO is also planning to bring an experimental Ebola vaccine to Bas-Uele. The vaccine, known as rVSV Zebov-GP, was developed after the West Africa outbreak and was successfully tested in Guinea in 2015.
Ebola Virus Contained
Due to the disease's high risk of contagion, health authorities are presently monitoring 416 people who came into contact with suspected patients.
According to Kabambi, mobile laboratories have been dispatched to the area with high prevalence of the disease, in order to facilitate the process of testing people who exhibit Ebola symptoms.
Although the Ebola outbreak is a major concern in DR Congo, the risk of the disease spreading globally is minimal, points out the WHO. One of the reasons is the affected area is extremely isolated, leaving the virus relatively contained.
However, the same isolation that keeps the Ebola virus from getting out is also making it difficult for health authorities to respond to the health threat.
"We cannot underestimate the logistic and practical challenges associated with this response in a very remote and insecure part of the country," said Peter Salama, WHO executive director for health emergencies.
The full extent of the outbreak is currently unknown, but the authorities are expecting to gather complete information over the next few weeks, by deploying teams in the area, Salama added.
Travel Advisory From The CDC: 'Not At This Point'
Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have yet to issue a travel advisory regarding the ongoing Ebola outbreak in DR Congo.
The CDC is still debating over the decision, seeing as though the virus is seemingly contained in the region.
When asked whether the agency planned to recommend restricting travel to the country and surrounding regions, a spokesperson from the CDC told Newsweek "not at this point."
The agency specified that before reaching such a decision it needs to review certain factors, "including the size of the outbreak and number of people infected."
"As we learn more that will guide the decision to issue an advisory or not," the CDC spokesperson said, adding: "It comes down to risk/threat assessment and so far risk does not warrant advisory."