Dungu, DR Congo: First, LRA Attacks and now, Ebola

Yesterday, August 17, the World Health Organization confirmed Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo. There are 10 suspected cases, nine in Isiro and one in Dungu (both located in the Orientale Province), and six deaths. Samples from two different patients tested positive for Ebola.

Lab samples were sent to neighboring Uganda’s Virus Research Institute for confirmation. The results confirmed that this is Ebola Bundibugyo meaning that it is not a continuation of the Uganda outbreak, which was the Ebola Sudan strain.

Ebola Bundibugyo was discovered in Uganda in 2007. This is the first appearance of the Bundibugyo strain since then. This particular strain of Ebola is slightly less lethal than others, with a case fatality rate somewhere around 37 percent (the 2007 outbreak had 131 cases and 42 deaths), compared to the 50 to 90 percent of other strains.

Currently, Médecins Sans Frontières and the Ministry of Health are tracking and monitoring contacts to contain the outbreak.

Of particular concern is the civil unrest in the Dungu area. In June, the people of Dungu and Faradje were attacked by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). Reportedly, four thousand people were displaced. Contact tracing and monitoring are extremely important to contain Ebola because symptoms can appear as late as three weeks after infection. These activities are very difficult in areas with civil unrest due to a highly mobile population and strained infrastructure. 

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