KINSHASA, 3 October 2007 (IRIN) - Health specialists agree that surveillance and monitoring of an Ebola epidemic have to be maintained, despite falls in the numbers of people affected in the province of Kasai Occidental in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The microscopic Ebola virus
"There are fewer and fewer cases but that is not to say the epidemic is over ... the new case shows that the virus is still circulating and that it is necessary to maintain the same level of surveillance, care and screening," Dominique Legros, an epidemiologist with the UN World Health Organization (WHO), said.
Laboratory tests confirmed a new case of Ebola from the village of Bulape, 10km north of Kampungu, according to the minister of health, Makwenge Kaput. Kampungu is the epicentre of the epidemic.
The new case puts the total number of confirmed cases of Ebola at 25, according to Congolese health officials. All the confirmed cases were in Kampungu, Makwenge said. So far six people have died.
"To declare an end to the epidemic it is necessary that we twice observe a three-week period without any new cases," Legros said. The incubation period for the Ebola virus is two to 21 days.
The latest case was confirmed by the Canadian national public health agency and the Centers for Disease Control mobile laboratories in the affected areas.
As of 27 September, there had been a total of 17 laboratory confirmed cases of Ebola haemorrhagic fever reported in the Mweka and Luebo health zone, Kasai Occidental Province, along with additional confirmations of other diseases associated with the outbreak, including typhoid and Shigella dysentery, according to the WHO.
Meanwhile, health experts were conducting a sensitisation campaign to prevent the spread of the epidemic.
In Kampungu, people are no longer shaking hands, preferring instead to use their elbows, Makwenge said.
According to Legros, the people were no longer washing dead bodies nor consuming monkey meat. "The people are paying a little more attention to hygiene," he said.