Ebola: New case confirmed in Congo

DAKAR — A new case of Ebola virus has been confirmed in the city of Beni in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, the country’s National Institute for Biomedical Research (INRB) said on Monday.

Testing showed the case was genetically linked to the 2018-2020 outbreak in North Kivu and Ituri provinces, which killed nearly 2,300 people, said a statement from Placide Mbala, chief of the Pathogen Genomics Laboratory at INRB.

Another flare-up from that outbreak killed six people last year. Congo’s most recent outbreak was in a different part of the country, and was declared over in July after five deaths.

Ebola can sometimes linger in the eyes, central nervous system and bodily fluids of survivors and flare up years later.

The case was confirmed in a woman who died on Aug. 15 after being admitted to a hospital in Beni on July 23, the statement said.

“Our initial findings indicate that this case likely represents a new flare-up of the 2018-2020 Nord Kivu/Ituri outbreak, initiated by transmission of Ebola virus from a persistently infected survivor or a survivor who experienced a relapse,” it said.

Investigations are ongoing to determine the source.

At least 131 contacts of the woman have been identified including 60 front-line healthcare workers, 59 of whom are vaccinated against Ebola, said the statement.

The World Health Organization said on Saturday that authorities were investigating a suspected Ebola case in Beni after a 46-year-old woman died.

Congo’s dense tropical forests are a natural reservoir for the Ebola virus, which causes fever, body aches, and diarrhea.

The country has recorded 14 outbreaks since 1976. The 2018-2020 outbreak in the east was Congo’s largest and the second largest ever recorded, with nearly 3,500 total cases.

(Reporting by Nellie Peyton Editing by James Macharia Chege and Mark Potter)