WHO Supports DRC with Ebola Outbreak and Continues Investigation of Unexplained Acute Hepatitis Cases in US and Europe
Healthworkers during the 2017 Ebola outbreak in the DRC.

The World Health Organization has announced an outbreak of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo and its continued investigation of almost 200 cases of unexplained acute hepatitis in the US and Europe in a media briefing Tuesday afternoon. 

Two cases of Ebola have been confirmed in the northwestern Democratic Republic of Congo, prompting health authorities to declare an outbreak.

The cases were found in Mbandaka, a city in the northwestern Equateur province of DRC. The second case, confirmed yesterday, was a relative to the first patient. 

Both patients have died from the virus.

The densely populated nature of the city of Mbandaka has WHO “concerned” about possible spread of transmission.

“It is always concerning when an area like Mbandaka, with the density of the population, but also with the risk of [Ebola] spreading across the river to countries like the Central African Republic,” said Ibrahima Soce Fall, Assistant Direct-General for Emergencies Response. 

WHO is supporting DRC’s government to scale-up testing, contact tracing and public health measures. Stockpiles of Ebola vaccines in the cities of Goma and Kinshasa are being transported to Mbandaka so that vaccination can start.

“The government and people of DRC have a great deal of experience stopping Ebola outbreaks and WHO will support them to do whatever is needed,” said Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

The two outbreaks of Ebola in the DRC were reported in 2021, one in February and another in October, though both were declared over within months. 

Acute hepatitis may be linked to adenoviruses

Philippa Easterbrook, Senior Scientist in the Global Hepatitis Programme at WHO

WHO is currently investigating the origin of 169 cases of acute hepatitis that have been reported in 12 countries across Europe and in the United States in children aged one month to 16 years. 

Some of these cases have been reported to be confirmed or suspected to be ill with the mysterious and potentially deadly disease since January. 

17 children – about 10% of reported cases have required liver transplants. One has reported several acute hepatitis, with symptoms including abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting, jaundice, and increased levels of liver enzymes. 

However, the virus that commonly causes acute viral hepatitis has not been detected in any of these cases, with no virus being detected in at least seventy-four cases. 

Philippa Easterbrook, Senior Scientist in the Global Hepatitis Programme at WHO, pointed to a possible link to adenoviruses, a common infection in children, as an underlying cause. 

Adenoviruses are a group of common viruses that spread from person to person and can cause respiratory gastrointestinal infections, especially in children. However, the report of adenoviruses in around 74 of reported cases has been called “unusual”. 

“It is very unusual for an adenovirus to cause these types of severe symptoms,” said Easterbrook.

Image Credits: WHO.

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