June 1, 2020

A new outbreak of the Ebola virus has hit the Democratic Republic of Congo, with five deaths reported in the northwestern Equateur province, UNICEF said Monday.

This is the 11th Ebola outbreak to hit the country, CNN reports, and one of the victims is a 15-year-old girl. There are four other reported cases, and those patients are in an isolation unit at a hospital in Mbandaka. The deaths occurred between May 18 and 30, UNICEF said, and were confirmed as being Ebola-related on Sunday.

The Democratic Republic of Congo is still trying to end an outbreak that started in the eastern part of the country in 2018, which has resulted in 3,406 cases and 2,243 deaths, the World Health Organization said. Health officials said there have been no new cases in that outbreak over the last 21 days, which is the Ebola incubation period, and if there are no new cases after 42 days, they will be able to determine whether the outbreak is over.

Ebola is passed via bodily fluids, and the fatality rate can range from 25 percent to 90 percent, depending on the outbreak. This new outbreak comes as the country is also dealing with COVID-19, which has killed 72 people, and a measles epidemic, which has killed 6,779 people since last year. Catherine Garcia

May 18, 2018

An Ebola outbreak in a rural part of the Democratic Republic of Congo has spread to a major city for the first time, increasing the threat that the number of cases will surge, the World Health Organization reported on Thursday.

The current outbreak has killed at least 23 people since the first cases appeared in remote parts of northwestern Equateur Province in early April. One confirmed case now has been reported in the provincial capital of Mbandaka, a city of more than a million people.

WHO's emergency committee will meet on Friday to assess the threat. "The challenge will be to stop rapid, explosive expansion of the outbreak in Mbandaka," said Dr. Peter Salama, the agency's deputy director general and leader of its emergency response program. Harold Maass

February 25, 2016

After studying 82 Ebola survivors, doctors from the U.S. National Institutes of Health found that most were suffering from new, long-term health problems six months after being infected.

At the height of their infection, most of the survivors had severe neurological problems, like hallucinations. Six months after being discharged from the hospital, two-thirds had body weakness and half had symptoms of depression, memory loss, and regular headaches, BBC News reports. Two were actively suicidal while being studied. The doctors said that some of the issues could clear up as their bodies heal, and some are suffering trauma from being ostracized from their families and communities.

In West Africa, more than 17,000 people survived Ebola, and this research was part of a larger study focusing on health issues post-Ebola. "It was pretty striking, this is a young population of patients, and we wouldn't expect to have seen these sorts of problems," Dr. Lauren Bowen, from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, told BBC News. "Ebola hasn't gone away for these people." Catherine Garcia

December 29, 2015

On Tuesday, the World Health Organization said that Guinea no longer has transmission of the Ebola virus for the first time since a deadly epidemic swept the country and two neighbors, Sierra Leone and Liberia, starting in December, 2013. Barring any hidden cases, this marks the end of the outbreak, which killed more than 11,000 people and sickened 28,000 more in 10 countries, sowing panic around the world. "This is a very big victory for the nation and the people of Guinea," said Fode Tass Sylla, a spokesman for the country’s Ebola task force.

The milestone in Guinea means that two 21-day incubation periods have come and gone since the last Ebola infection, in a 3-week-old girl who survived (and is pictured above). Public health officials will be watching the country closely over the next three months in case the virus re-emerges, as it did in Liberia. Guinea isn't waiting to celebrate the end to its long ordeal: On Wednesday, the government is planning a celebration in Conakry, the capital, with popular musicians helping end the dark year on a happier note. Peter Weber

November 6, 2015

The horrible Ebola pandemic that killed more than 11,300 people over the past 22 months, mostly in three West African nations, is not over. But it is down to a few cases in a small cluster of villages in Guinea — one of the three hard-hit countries — and, The New York Times reports, it is proving really hard to get the case number down to zero.

One woman believed to be infected has vanished, and her friends and neighbors aren't giving health officials (or Guinea's prime minister) any hints. There are also about 150 other people also known to have had close contact with the victims, plus another 200 who had some form of brief contact. And in some cases, health officials don't know how the disease is being spread. "We are all holding our breath, frankly," Christopher Dye, director of strategy at the World Health Organization, tells The Times. Public health workers are trying mightily, if unevenly, to stamp Ebola out, moving into the villages in large white tents.

Guinea wasn't hit quite as hard as neighboring Sierra Leone or Liberia, but Liberia has gone more than two months since its last Ebola infection, and Sierra Leone could be declared Ebola-free on Saturday, which would mark 42 days without a new case. Read more about the smoldering battle against Ebola at The New York Times. Peter Weber

September 21, 2015

The World Health Organization bungled its response to the deadly Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia with its "toxic mix of avoidable problems," including "weak leadership, shoddy supplies, and infighting," according to an Associated Press investigation. In all, the epidemic cost more than 11,000 lives in 2014 and 2015, and it isn't officially over yet.

The AP investigation focused on Kenema Government Hospital in Sierra Leone, where, among other problems and shortages, WHO used some batches of expired government-issued chlorine bleach, where chlorine was, in the words of hospital porter Juma Musa, "the only thing that was giving us courage to come closer to patients." Other aid organizations flew in their own chlorine bleach powder.

WHO officials defended the agency's actions in the fight against Ebola, noting the larger problems of local customs and population movement. But Dr. Irwin Redlener, director of Columbia University's National Center for Disaster Preparedness, disagrees. "There's no question that a better and earlier response from WHO could have resulted in thousands and thousands of fewer deaths than we saw," he told AP. "By the time WHO got in there, they were disorganized and late to the party." You can learn more at AP and in the video below. Peter Weber

July 31, 2015

The results are in from drug giant Merck's most recent trial of a vaccine for Ebola — and they look pretty good:

The vaccine was 100 percent effective when it was tested on more than 4,000 people who were in close contact with Ebola patients in the African nation of Guinea, the World Health Organization said, citing a study published today in the Lancet medical journal. The trial of the vaccine, called Ebola ca suffit — "Ebola, that's enough" in French — began on March 23. [Bloomberg]

A panel overseeing the trial says a late-stage trial of the vaccine should proceed.

The Ebola outbreak that gripped West Africa last year — killing 11,000 people — has subsided, but the virus is stubbornly sticking around. New confirmed cases were reported this week. Ryu Spaeth

July 1, 2015

Liberian officials just confirmed a second diagnosis of Ebola only seven weeks after the country was declared Ebola-free. The case comes from Nedowein, the same town where officials recently detected Ebola on a teen's corpse. The infected person has been moved 30 miles north to the country's capital, Monrovia, for treatment.

As if the return of Ebola wasn't bad news enough for Liberia, the country's health workers are protesting. The Associated Press reports that Ebola treatment workers stormed the Ministry of Health on Wednesday. They say that they have not been paid for their work since the country was declared free of the disease on May 9.

Liberia is one of the three West African countries hit hardest by the deadly virus. Since last year, more than 11,000 people in West Africa have died from Ebola. Becca Stanek

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