Congo confirms Ebola cases, more suspected

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Congo has confirmed two cases of Ebola in the northwestern town of Bikoro and at least 10 more cases are suspected, the head of the national institute for biological research, Jean Jack Muyembe, said on Tuesday.

There have been 21 suspected cases of viral haemorrhagic fever, including 17 deaths in the past five weeks.

According to the same source, the Ministry of Health is preparing the declaration of the epidemic in this part of the country to initiate an immediate response.

Ebola, discovered in 1976, is contracted by humans through contact with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected animals, typically fruit bats, chimpanzees, gorillas and monkeys.

Without preventive measures, the virus can spread quickly between people and is fatal in up to 90 per cent of cases. Seventeen of those later died.

The first multidisciplinary team comprised of experts from WHO, Médecins Sans Frontières and Provincial Division of Health travelled today to Bikoro to strengthen coordination and investigations.

The Ministry of Health of Democratic of the Congo (DRC) informed WHO that two out of five samples collected from five patients tested positive for EVD at the Institut National de Recherche Biomédicale (INRB) in Kinshasa. All cases were reported from iIkoko Iponge health facility located about 30 kilometres from Bikoro.

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None of these outbreaks was connected to the massive outbreak in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone that began in 2014 and left more than 11,300 dead.

Despite regular outbreaks every few years, death tolls in Congo have been significantly lower.

"Working with partners and responding early and in a coordinated way will be vital to containing this deadly disease".

The most recent outbreak was in May 2017 that killed four of the eight people infected in Congo's Bas-Uele province in the northeast.

Congo's vast, remote geography gives it an advantage, as outbreaks are often localized and relatively easy to isolate.

Ebola takes its name from Congo's Ebola River, a tributary of the River Congo.

Further downstream the river flows past Democratic Republic of Congo's capital Kinshasa and Brazzaville, capital of neighboring Congo Republic - two cities with a combined population of over 12 million people.

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