Officials have confirmed four new cases of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
This recent report comes from the DRC’s health ministry, who recently celebrated the defeat of an outbreak in the Équateur province.
The new cases — which sit in the North Kivu province — are 1,500 miles from the last site and the government says there is no indication they are linked with the past outbreak.
There have been 10 Ebola outbreaks in the DRC since 1976. While the latest is cause for concern — especially so soon after the recent spread — it shows that the country is ready to fight the disease. It also reveals that outbreaks may be easier to spot than before.
“Although we did not expect to face a 10th epidemic so early, the detection of the virus is an indicator of the proper functioning of the surveillance system,” said a DRC Ministry of Health communique, according to Science Magazine.
The current outbreak is in Mangina, a village in the northern part of the country. Officials noted 26 cases of hemorrhagic fever and 20 deaths in the region, while the National Institute of Biomedical Research in Kinshasa confirmed samples from four hospitalized patients tested positive for Ebola.
There are four Ebolavirus species that affect humans. To combat that during the last outbreak, researchers employed an experimental vaccine. Though scientists are not sure how well the injection worked, nobody who received it contracted Ebola.
As a result, it could be effective moving forward.
The vaccine is made from the Zaire species of virus, which is what is currently moving around Mangina. Officials are not sure if they want to use the injection, but it is likely the best option available.
Other Ebola therapies exist, but they are largely experimental at this point and not ready for clinical trials.
“It would appear that the risk, as we can surmise for DRC, is high,” said WHO’s emergency response chief Peter Salama, according to Reuters. “For the region it’s high given the proximity to borders, particularly Uganda. We’re talking about a few health areas mostly in one health zone. So we are talking about tens of kilometers but I stress that this is very preliminary information at this stage.”