Rwanda is on a high alert following a fresh outbreak of the deadly Ebola disease in neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo.
The Ministry of Health on Thursday assured the country that the government was “well prepared and ready to avert any possible outbreak of the epidemic.”
DR Congo reported on Wednesday that a new outbreak has killed 20 people in eastern Beni in North Kivu Province.
The report of the outbreak, the tenth to hit DRC since it was discovered in 1976, came barely a week after Congo had declared the end to an epidemic in its northwest region. Ebola killed 33 people in Mbandaka, a city on the Congo River.
In the latest outbreak, 26 suspected cases have been recorded with 20 fatalities in Mangina, a town 30km west of Beni. Out of six blood samples analysed, four tested positive of the virus.
Ebola is a virus-caused haemorrhagic fever with a high fatality rate and in extreme cases causes bleeding from internal organs, the mouth, eyes or ears.
Rwanda residents have been urged not to travel to the affected area and report immediately any suspected symptoms.
Meanwhile, DRC flew a team led by its Health Minister Oly Ilunga Kalenga to an eastern region hit by Ebola on Thursday to help oversee the response.
The Beni region lies in the heart of a conflict zone gripped by a notorious Ugandan-linked Islamist militia called the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF).
In Geneva, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said it still had staff and equipment in place in DR Congo after dealing with the May-July outbreak, and this would give it a “head-start.”
However, the outbreak “is occurring in an environment which is very different from where we were operating in the northwest,” a statement quoting Peter Salama, deputy director-general for emergency preparedness and response read.
“This is an active conflict zone. The major barrier will be safely accessing the affected population.”
In the worst outbreak of Ebola, the disease struck the West African states of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone in 2013-2015, killing more than 11,300 people.