Picture: REUTERS
Picture: REUTERS

No travel restrictions have been imposed‚ but the outbreak of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is a reminder to travellers and medical personnel from SA to ensure their vaccinations are up to date.

Fortunately‚ the risk of Ebola spreading to other countries is low‚ according to medical professionals.

The DRC declared the outbreak of Ebola haemorrhagic fever in Bikoro in Equateur province on May 8‚ after laboratory results confirmed two cases of the disease.

The affected area is on the shores of Lake Tumba in the northwestern part of the country — "a very remote and not easily accessible area of the country"‚ according to communique posted by the SA’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD).

This is DRC’s ninth outbreak of Ebola haemorrhagic fever 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, and 17 deaths.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) 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 SA 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.