This article is part of our #FirstWord series to provide context on trending news.
17 people have died from an Ebola outbreak on 8th May 2018 in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), only a year after the country was declared free from the endemic.
DRC has had numerous recorded outbreaks of Ebola since it was discovered in the early 1970s. It has had more Ebola virus outbreaks than any other country in the world - five in the last ten years.
While the country has a good track record of controlling outbreaks, the number of deaths within the short period is cause for concern.
What is Ebola?
Ebola is a viral disease, often deadly, found in humans and animals. It is caused by infection with a virus of the filoviridae and was first spotted in areas that are now Sudan and DRC.
The Ebola virus may initially have been transmitted to humans from bats. While the World Health Organisation (W.H.O) agrees with this, the organisation says Ebola was introduced to humans through blood, organs, secretions and other bodily fluids of many different animals including monkeys, antelopes and porcupines.
Fever, headache, vomiting, stomach pain, diarrhoea etc. are all symptoms of Ebola and appear 21 days after exposure to the virus. It is not airborne and can only be spread by body fluids.
Ebola is very deadly. The West African outbreak in 2014, for example, lasted 3 years, infecting about 28,000 people and killed 11,000. Nigeria, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia were all affected during this period.
There is currently no cure for Ebola yet, nor are there any vaccines that can prevent the disease. Doctors keep victims hydrated and help them breathe, to give their immune system a better chance of fighting the disease.
Is Nigeria at risk of Ebola?
In July 2014, Nigeria was hit by the Ebola virus when a Liberian diplomat carrying the disease made his way into the country. 8 people died. However, Nigeria managed to contain the disease in three months by putting in numerous security measures.
According to a classification by W.H.O, Nigeria is at medium risk of getting the disease. The country has taken certain precautionary measures to avoid a repeat of 2014. For example, the National Port Health Services have heightened screening at points of entry into the country.
“We will also ensure we step up all activities screening people coming in so that we will not be caught unawares,” - Isaac Adewole, Minister of health.
The Nigerian Centre for Disease Control is to also planning to send out a contingent to help build DRC’s capacity to respond to the outbreak.
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