DAKAR, Senegal — A fresh outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus has flared up in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a country that was already contending with the world’s largest measles epidemic, as well as the coronavirus.
Congo’s health ministry said that the new Ebola outbreak has killed four people, and infected at least two more, in Mbandaka, a city of 1.2 million people on the country’s western side. A fifth person died on Monday, according to UNICEF, the United Nations agency for children.
Less than two months ago, Congo was about to declare an official end to an Ebola epidemic on the eastern side of the country that had lasted nearly two years and killed more than 2,275 people. Then, with just two days to go, a new case was found, and the outbreak could not be declared over. But officials say it is in its final stages.
It is unclear how Ebola emerged in Mbandaka, which is about 750 miles west of the nearly-vanquished outbreak on the country’s eastern edge. Congo (formerly known as Zaire) is the largest country in sub-Saharan Africa, and has been under travel restrictions to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Reported cases of coronavirus have so far been mostly in the capital, Kinshasa, also in the country’s west. Congo has reported 3,049 cases of coronavirus, including 71 deaths, but testing is limited, so it is impossible to know the true scale of the outbreak.
More than 350,000 people have been infected with measles in the country since January 2019, and over 6,500 have died.
Dr. Matshidiso Rebecca Moeti, the World Health Organization’s regional director for Africa, wrote on Twitter that although the new outbreak of Ebola posed a challenge, the W.H.O., along with Congo’s health ministry and the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, were ready to tackle it.
“With each experience we respond faster and more effectively,” Dr. Moeti wrote.
The five people who died included a 15-year-old girl, according to UNICEF. Two other patients were being treated in the isolation unit of a city hospital.
Ebola causes fever, bleeding, weakness and abdominal pain, and kills about half of those it infects. It is transmitted through contact with sick or dead people or animals, and is named for the Ebola River, in Congo, where it was first identified, in 1976.
The largest known outbreak of Ebola erupted in 2014 in the West African countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, and killed more than 11,000 people. But since then, researchers have developed vaccines and treatment methods that can limit transmission of the disease.
This is not the first time that Ebola has hit Mbandaka, an equatorial port city on the Congo River. An outbreak in May 2018 resulted in at least 54 cases and 33 deaths in the area. But the W.H.O. delivered more than 7,500 doses of an Ebola vaccine to Congo, and the outbreak in Mbandaka was quickly brought under control. It was declared over on July 24 of that year.
Updated June 1, 2020
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Exercise researchers and physicians have some blunt advice for those of us aiming to return to regular exercise now: Start slowly and then rev up your workouts, also slowly. American adults tended to be about 12 percent less active after the stay-at-home mandates began in March than they were in January. But there are steps you can take to ease your way back into regular exercise safely. First, “start at no more than 50 percent of the exercise you were doing before Covid,” says Dr. Monica Rho, the chief of musculoskeletal medicine at the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab in Chicago. Thread in some preparatory squats, too, she advises. “When you haven’t been exercising, you lose muscle mass.” Expect some muscle twinges after these preliminary, post-lockdown sessions, especially a day or two later. But sudden or increasing pain during exercise is a clarion call to stop and return home.
My state is reopening. Is it safe to go out?
States are reopening bit by bit. This means that more public spaces are available for use and more and more businesses are being allowed to open again. The federal government is largely leaving the decision up to states, and some state leaders are leaving the decision up to local authorities. Even if you aren’t being told to stay at home, it’s still a good idea to limit trips outside and your interaction with other people.
What’s the risk of catching coronavirus from a surface?
Touching contaminated objects and then infecting ourselves with the germs is not typically how the virus spreads. But it can happen. A number of studies of flu, rhinovirus, coronavirus and other microbes have shown that respiratory illnesses, including the new coronavirus, can spread by touching contaminated surfaces, particularly in places like day care centers, offices and hospitals. But a long chain of events has to happen for the disease to spread that way. The best way to protect yourself from coronavirus — whether it’s surface transmission or close human contact — is still social distancing, washing your hands, not touching your face and wearing masks.
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Common symptoms include fever, a dry cough, fatigue and difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. Some of these symptoms overlap with those of the flu, making detection difficult, but runny noses and stuffy sinuses are less common. The C.D.C. has also added chills, muscle pain, sore throat, headache and a new loss of the sense of taste or smell as symptoms to look out for. Most people fall ill five to seven days after exposure, but symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as many as 14 days.
How can I protect myself while flying?
If air travel is unavoidable, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself. Most important: Wash your hands often, and stop touching your face. If possible, choose a window seat. A study from Emory University found that during flu season, the safest place to sit on a plane is by a window, as people sitting in window seats had less contact with potentially sick people. Disinfect hard surfaces. When you get to your seat and your hands are clean, use disinfecting wipes to clean the hard surfaces at your seat like the head and arm rest, the seatbelt buckle, the remote, screen, seat back pocket and the tray table. If the seat is hard and nonporous or leather or pleather, you can wipe that down, too. (Using wipes on upholstered seats could lead to a wet seat and spreading of germs rather than killing them.)
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More than 40 million people — the equivalent of 1 in 4 U.S. workers — have filed for unemployment benefits since the pandemic took hold. One in five who were working in February reported losing a job or being furloughed in March or the beginning of April, data from a Federal Reserve survey released on May 14 showed, and that pain was highly concentrated among low earners. Fully 39 percent of former workers living in a household earning $40,000 or less lost work, compared with 13 percent in those making more than $100,000, a Fed official said.
Should I wear a mask?
The C.D.C. has recommended that all Americans wear cloth masks if they go out in public. This is a shift in federal guidance reflecting new concerns that the coronavirus is being spread by infected people who have no symptoms. Until now, the C.D.C., like the W.H.O., has advised that ordinary people don’t need to wear masks unless they are sick and coughing. Part of the reason was to preserve medical-grade masks for health care workers who desperately need them at a time when they are in continuously short supply. Masks don’t replace hand washing and social distancing.
What should I do if I feel sick?
If you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus or think you have, and have a fever or symptoms like a cough or difficulty breathing, call a doctor. They should give you advice on whether you should be tested, how to get tested, and how to seek medical treatment without potentially infecting or exposing others.
How can I help?
Charity Navigator, which evaluates charities using a numbers-based system, has a running list of nonprofits working in communities affected by the outbreak. You can give blood through the American Red Cross, and World Central Kitchen has stepped in to distribute meals in major cities.
In eastern Congo, ongoing violence and insecurity that has forced people to flee their homes has also made it difficult to end the epidemic. By comparison, the western Équateur Province, where the new Ebola cases have emerged, is relatively safe and stable.
There have been many outbreaks of Ebola in Congo over many years, and most have been resolved relatively quickly.
The government imposed travel restrictions between the country’s provinces in response to the coronavirus outbreak, which may now also help limit the spread of Ebola from Mbandaka.