Why Do Ebola Outbreaks Keep Happening?

May 18, 2018 Last Updated: May 18, 2018

The new Ebola outbreak in the Congo has now reached a major city, Mbandaka, with a population of a million people.

It means the virus may be about getting way more difficult to contain.

Twenty-three had already died in more rural areas.

The first batch of experimental vaccines only arrived on Wednesday, May 16.

It’s the seventh time the DRC has been hit in the last two decades.

So why does the virus keep coming back?

Reuters pharmaceuticals correspondent Ben Hirschler says it’s partly a problem of education in West Africa, and food sources.

“The problem is this virus is endemic in the tropical rainforests of Africa. It’s in large reservoirs of fruit bats, of which there’s vast, vast populations. They don’t seem to get sick with the virus but they can pass it on occasionally to other animals. They can drop infected fruit, which might get eaten by deer or monkeys. And when people come into contact with those infected an imals, that’s when the virus transmits to humans,” said Hirschler.

We’re talking about bushmeat here.

These animals, including bats, are all part of local cuisines.

Like these Reuters found in a Congo market during a past outbreak.

Health agencies say that people need to know how to properly handle the animals from hunter to plate if they are to continue eating them, such as cooking them thoroughly and not allowing the meat to contaminate other foods.

But how people react after an infection is just as important.

“They also need to educate populations. They need to help treat those who are sick because you can have a much better chance of recovery if you have rehydration and that’s oral rehydration or intravenous rehydration. They also need to make sure they have safe burial processes because touching infected corpses is a common way of spreading infection,” said Hirschler.

During the 2014 outbreak, scientists at Yale University said funerals presented a huge vector for the virus’s transmission.