Get an Ebola shot before interacting with DRC travellers‚ just in case
While no travel restrictions are being imposed‚ the outbreak of another round of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is a reminder to travellers and medical personnel from South Africa to ensure their vaccinations are up to date if they are potentially at risk of exposure to infected people.
Fortunately‚ the risk of Ebola spreading to other countries is low‚ according to medical professionals.
The DRC declared the outbreak of Ebola virus disease (EVD) in Bikoro in Equateur province on May 8‚ after laboratory results confirmed two cases of EVD.
The affected area is on the shores of Lake Tumba in the north-western part of the country - "a very remote and not easily accessible area of the country"‚ according to communique posted by the South African National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD).
This is DRC’s ninth outbreak of EVD since the discovery of the virus in the country in 1976. In the past five weeks‚ there have been 21 suspected viral haemorrhagic fever cases including 17 deaths.
The World Health Organization is assisting the DRC in managing the outbreak.
The NICD said: "The WHO does not recommend that any travel or trade restrictions be applied to DRC. The risk for international spread‚ including South Africa is low. There are no special precautions or directives for commercial flights‚ passengers or crew departing on flights bound for DRC or returning from DRC."
"The standard regulations for evidence of a valid yellow fever vaccination certificate apply‚ as per the international health regulations for travellers."
A separate advisory by health officials cautioned that a high index of suspicion should be practised by medical staff should travellers from the DRC seek treatment in SA‚ for suspected/confirmed Ebola haemorrhagic fever. However - and without referring to this - the NICD noted that other possible causes of fever in people travelling from high risk areas could also be related to malaria as well as dengue fever‚ yellow fever and other endemic diseases such as typhoid fever or cholera.