A second person has died of Ebola this week in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s North Kivu province, the health ministry and the World Health Organization (WHO) said in a statement.
A 60-year-old woman who died on Wednesday in the district of Biena had a link with a woman who also died after contracting Ebola and was married to a survivor of the previous major outbreak, the statement said.
The DRC’s health ministry has deployed a team to the area and is tracing more than 100 contacts of the two women in the health zones of Biena and Katwa, it said in the statement.
Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa, stressed on Thursday during a briefing that the UN health body was working in coordination with the DRC’s government to prevent the spread of the disease.
The two Ebola cases were detected nearly three months after the DRC announced the end of its 11th outbreak hundreds of kilometres away in the northwestern province of Equateur, which infected 130 people and killed 55.
That outbreak overlapped with an earlier one in the east running from August 1, 2018, to June 25, 2020, that killed more than 2,200 people, the second-most in the disease’s history and the deadliest in the DRC.
The last person declared recovered from Ebola in Equateur was on October 16.
The widespread use of Ebola vaccinations, which were administered to more than 40,000 people, helped curb the disease.
Over the past year, two Ebola vaccines have been approved and distributed, including one from drug company Johnson & Johnson which has also produced a COVID-19 vaccine that will only require one shot and can be stored at regular refrigeration temperatures.
The emergence of more Ebola cases could complicate efforts to eradicate COVID-19, which has infected 23,600 people and killed 681 in the DRC.
A COVID vaccination campaign is expected to start in the first half of this year.
Peter Piot, director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicines, said during the WHO briefing that there are no reasons preventing the distribution and administration of vaccines effective for both Ebola and COVID-19.
Ebola is a virus-caused haemorrhagic fever that is spread through contact with body fluids. In extreme cases, it causes fatal bleeding from internal organs, the mouth, eyes or ears.
The average fatality rate from Ebola is approximately 50 percent but this can rise to 90 percent for some epidemics, according to the WHO.
The virus that causes Ebola is believed to live in bats.