The Congolese Ministry of Health reported at least 897 suspected or confirmed cases of Ebola virus disease (EVD) in North Kivu and Ituri provinces as of Monday, March 4, resulting in at least 563 deaths. Beni, Katwa, Mabalako, and Butembo health zones in North Kivu have seen the highest number of cases. World Health Organization (WHO) officials remain concerned of the risk of regional and international transmission due to the area's high level of insecurity, threat of violence to health professionals, porous borders, and large number of refugees. The outbreak is expected to continue in the coming months.
EVD is extremely virulent. The disease is transmitted to humans via direct contact with the blood, secretions, organs, or other bodily fluids of infected animals. The disease can then be transmitted between humans and is highly contagious, particularly during the hemorrhagic phase. Ebola is characterized by the sudden onset of high fever, weakness, joint and muscle pain, and headache. A sore throat is also a common early symptom. These symptoms are followed by nausea/vomiting, diarrhea, rashes, kidney and liver failure, and, in some cases, internal and external bleeding.
Travelers should avoid the above areas and monitor the situation. To prevent the spread of EVD:
- Avoid contact with infected individuals and any items that have been in their close proximity
- Avoid consuming bush meat and only handle animals when wearing gloves and the appropriate protective wear
- Animal products (meat and blood) should be thoroughly cooked before consumption
- Adhere to a strict observance of hygienic precautions (e.g. wash hands regularly, etc.)
- Avoid crowded areas (e.g. stadiums, markets, train stations, etc.).
In case of doubt, individuals should seek immediate medical attention and comply with all directives issued by local health authorities.