What You Need to Know About the Recent Ebola Outbreak

Ebola outbreak news
A sign of the World Health Organization (WHO) is seen at the entrance of the UN specialised agency's headquarters on May 18, 2018 in Geneva. - An Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has a high risk of spreading internally, the World Health Organization warned ahead of a meeting on whether to declare it an event of international concern. (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP) (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images) FABRICE COFFRINI/Contributor/Getty Images

It’s no surprise that searches for “Ebola Outbreak 2018” on Google were up 1,950 percent recently. A new outbreak of the often fatal fever is here, and the headlines are harrowing. (“Experts fear ‘EXPLOSIVE’ increase in cases as outbreak hits MAJOR Congo City” is enough to give any traveler pause.) But before you cancel any upcoming trips or alarm any friends or family visiting Africa, here’s what you need to know.

A new Ebola outbreak has been declared in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Following lab confirmations of two cases of Ebola virus disease, or EVD, in the town of Bikoro, the World Health Organization (WHO) has mobilized a response to help control the spread of the disease.

“Our top priority is to get to Bikoro to work alongside the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and partners to reduce the loss of life and suffering related to this new Ebola virus disease outbreak,” said Dr. Peter Salama, WHO deputy director-general, Emergency Preparedness and Response, in an official statement. “Working with partners and responding early and in a coordinated way will be vital to containing this deadly disease.”

So far, BBC reports that at least 44 people are believed to have been infected and 23 deaths are being investigated.

One case has been confirmed in Mbandaka, which has sparked larger concerns about the virus spreading since it’s a port city along the Congo River. WHO is expected to decide today whether or not to declare this a “Public health emergency of international concern.”

Ebola is endemic to the Democratic Republic of Congo.
In 2017, another outbreak occurred in the country. EVD spreads from wild animals to humans and then gets transmitted in humans through direct contact with blood and body fluids (i.e., urine, feces, saliva, vomit, sweat, and semen). It is not spread through the air or through food and water, according to the CDC. Symptoms of EVD include fever, severe headache, muscle pain, weakness, fatigue, diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain and unexplained hemorrhage (bleeding or bruising). Symptoms can appear anywhere from 2 to 21 days from contact with the virus. If you are sick with a fever or other symptoms consistent with Ebola, it goes without saying, but you should get medical care immediately.

The CDC advises you do the following things to keep yourself safe from Ebola.

  • “Do wash your hands often with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Do not touch the blood or body fluids (like urine, feces, saliva, vomit, sweat, and semen) of people who are sick.
  • Do not handle items that may have come in contact with a sick person’s blood or body fluids, like clothes, bedding, needles, or medical equipment.
    Do not touch the body of someone who has died of Ebola.”

In addition to taking the above precautions, you can learn more information on the CDC’s website here. Currently, there is no FDA-approved vaccine available for Ebola, however, there is an experimental vaccine, the VSV-EBOV vaccine, that has “proven safe and effective in trials” that is currently being deployed to Congo.

Recently returned from Africa? Monitor your health.
While Ebola is rare, the fatality rate hovers around 50 percent. The CDC advises that you watch for signs and symptoms of EVD for 21 days so be sure to keep close tabs on how you feel and seek medical attention right away.