Ebola virus disease in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Updated: October 07, 2019

Note

Original publication date: August 3, 2018

Current situation

The ongoing outbreak of Ebola virus disease (EVD) in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) was originally reported on August 1, 2018. EVD has been reported in both cities and rural areas in North Kivu, South Kivu and Ituri provinces, located in the northeastern part of the country.

While the risk to international spread is low, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has determined that the risk of this outbreak spreading to other provinces of the DRC and bordering countries is very high due to the high population movement from the outbreak-affected areas (Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, and South Sudan).

In June 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed three imported cases of EVD in Kasese District, Uganda. No other cases of EVD were detected in Uganda as a result of these imported cases.

The WHO declared the outbreak in the DRC to be a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on July 17, 2019.

Reporting and investigation of suspect cases in neighbouring countries is expected in light of the ongoing outbreak. The international response to both confirmed and suspected cases is being coordinated through the WHO (https://www.who.int/csr/don/archive/disease/ebola/en/).

The Government of Canada recommends that Canadians avoid all non-essential travel to the DRC, and to avoid all travel to the eastern and northeastern areas of the DRC (including the provinces of North Kivu, South Kivu and Ituri), due to the current political and security situation. This situation is making it difficult to control the outbreak and may make it difficult for Canadian travellers to receive health care services in those regions.

About Ebola virus disease

Ebola virus disease (EVD) is a severe and often fatal viral disease. It is transmitted to humans through contact with infected animals. It can also spread from person to person through contact with:

Symptoms of EVD include rash, chills, fever, headache, sore throat, muscle pain and weakness, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. It can become more severe, with some people experiencing severe bleeding (hemorrhaging), loss of consciousness and death.

Symptoms can begin 2 to 21 days after exposure.

There is currently no licensed vaccine available to travellers to prevent EVD. There is an investigational Ebola virus vaccine available for outbreak control.

The risk of infection for travellers who use proper personal protective measures is low.

See the Government of Canada's Update on the Outbreak of EVD in the DRC for more information.

Recommendations

If you choose to travel, follow all Government of Canada recommendations regarding travel to this area. Consult a health care professional or visit a travel health clinic at least 6 weeks before you go and make sure your routine vaccines are up to date.

During your trip

Avoid contact with people with EVD, and their body fluids. Avoid contact with the bodies of people who have died of EVD or unknown illnesses.

Avoid unprotected sexual activity with an infected person or a person recovering from EVD. The virus can persist for an extended period of time in the semen of infected males and possibly vaginal secretions of infected females. 

Avoid close contact with the following animals, alive or dead:

Avoid handling raw or undercooked meat and avoid eating bushmeat (meat from animals caught in the wild).

Practice strict hand washing routines and take other measures to prevent other infectious diseases (like those transmitted through food, water or insects) that may be mistaken for the early signs of Ebola or cause you to seek treatment in a health care facility.

Humanitarian aid workers and health professionals should practise strict infection control measures including the appropriate use of personal protective equipment (e.g., gowns, masks, goggles and gloves) when providing care for people suspected or confirmed of having EVD.

Avoid contact with medical equipment, such as needles, and personal belongings that may have been contaminated with body fluids of people with EVD or other unknown illnesses.

You should not continue to travel to another country or return home to Canada if you know you have been exposed to or experience symptoms of EVD. You should seek medical care immediately.

If you notice symptoms of EVD during the flight, tell the flight attendant before you land or the border services officer as you enter the country. They will notify a quarantine officer who will assess your symptoms.

After your trip

Returning travellers should be aware of the symptoms of EVD and monitor their health.

If you develop symptoms of EVD within 21 days of your return, call the appropriate public health authority immediately. Describe your symptoms over the phone and tell them where you have been travelling or living. They will make appropriate arrangements for your medical assessment. Follow the instructions provided to you by your public health authority.

Health care professionals and humanitarian aid workers should follow the guidance provided to them by their organization.

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