TAIPEI (Taiwan News)—The Taiwan Centers for Disease Control (Taiwan CDC) on Tuesday raised the travel notice for Ebola virus for the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to Level 2: Alert, advising travelers visiting DRC to take actions to reduce their risk of Ebola infection.
Peter Salama, deputy director-general of emergency preparedness and response at the WHO, said in Geneva, Switzerland, on Friday that it’s “going to be tough and it’s going to be costly to stamp out this outbreak.”
As of Wednesday, 32 people are suspected to have been infected with Ebola viral disease, including three health care workers. Eighteen of those have died, including one of the health care workers.
On May 8, DRC’s Ministry of Health (MOH) declared an outbreak of Ebola virus disease in Bikoro Health Zone, Equateur Province, which is northwest Congo. Between April 4 and May 13, 2018, a total of 39 cases, including two confirmed cases, 25 probable cases, 12 suspected cases, and 19 deaths, were reported in Bikoro Health Zone, according to Taiwan CDC.
The Ebola virus is transmitted by direct contact with body fluids such as blood, excretions, and semen of an infected human or wild animals such as monkey and bat.
The incubation period varies between two and 21 days. Infected individuals are not contagious during the incubation period but can spread the virus once symptoms develop. Symptoms usually begin with sudden onset of high fever, severe fatigue, muscle aches, headache, and sore throat, which are followed by vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, maculopapular rash, and internal and external bleeding. Severe cases usually experience decreased functions of the liver, the kidneys and the central nervous system, shock, and multiple organ failure, the agency said.
The case fatality rate can be as high as 90%, Taiwan CDC said, adding that currently, there is no approved vaccine to prevent the disease. Only an experimental vaccine to be tested in large-scale efficacy trials is available at the moment, the agency said.
The disease is endemic to the Democratic Republic of Congo, and this is the nation’s ninth outbreak since the discovery of the virus in the country in 1976.
Although the Ebola outbreak has occurred in a remote area in DRC and the risk of transmission to Taiwan at the moment is low, Taiwan CDC still advises travelers to follow its “Two Don’ts and One Do” advice in protecting themselves against Ebola: (1) Do not travel to Ebola-affected areas; if you must travel to an area with an Ebola outbreak, avoid contact with and consumption of wild animals such as fruit bats and primates, (2) Do not visit hospitals or have direct contact with patients, and (3) Do pay attention to personal hygiene and take preventive measures such as washing hands frequently and wear a mask when coughing.
In addition, travelers are urged to monitor their own health for 21 days after their return to Taiwan and seek immediate medical attention if symptoms develop.
The latest outbreak is occurring in the Bikoro health zone, 400 kilometers (about 250 miles) from Mbandaka, the capital of Equateur province.
Bikoro health zone has a population of about 163,000, with three hospitals and 19 health centers, most with limited functionality, according to WHO.
Given the remote location of the outbreak, Salama said, response efforts will be extremely challenging. “It is a dire scene in terms of infrastructure,” he said.