Officials from the World Health Organization (WHO) on Saturday announced that they have begun investigating a suspected case of Ebola virus disease in the province of North Kivu in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo's National Institute of Biomedical Research (INRB) is currently testing samples from the patient in order to confirm whether or not they were infected with Ebola.
What is Ebola?
Ebola is a deadly disease that is transmitted to humans from animals such as other primates, fruit bats and porcupines and is then spread between humans through contact with bodily fluids or internal organs and contaminated objects such as clothing or bedsheets, according to the WHO.
In previous outbreaks, between 25% and 90% of patients who were infected with Ebola died from the disease, but the average fatality rate is about 50%.
2014-2016 Ebola outbreak
The largest outbreak occured from 2014-2016 in West Africa, causing more fatalities than all previous outbreaks combined and spreading between multiple countries, including Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, the WHO said.
Recent potential Ebola case
The patient who was recently identified in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a 46-year-old woman, died on Monday in the town of Beni after receiving treatment at the Beni Referral Hospital, initially for unrelated medical conditions.
While the patient was at the hospital, she began exhibiting symptoms consistent with Ebola virus disease.
Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, said that WHO staff are currently assisting local health officials.
“While the analysis is ongoing, WHO is already on-the-ground supporting health officials to investigate the case and prepare for a possible outbreak,” he said.
The WHO said its staff is trying to identify anyone who may have come in contact with the deceased patient in order to monitor their health and take precautionary measures to prevent the spread of Ebola.