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CONGO | Ebola Outbreak in DR Congo Continues, Two More Cases Discovered

The worst outbreak of Ebola killed more than 11,300 people in the West African countries of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia and infected more than 28,000. (FILE) | Photo: AFP The worst outbreak of Ebola killed more than 11,300 people in the West African countries of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia and infected more than 28,000. (FILE) | Photo: AFP
Following the declaration of an Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo, experts have identified two more suspected cases of Ebola, the U.N. health agency said on Saturday.

The disease is fatal in nearly 90 percent of cases and is highly contagious, spreading through people by direct contact and leaving survivors with long-term health problems.

Government and World Health Organization, WHO, officials reached a remote area of Bas-Uele province in northeastern Congo near the border with the Central African Republic Saturday to conduct field investigations, WHO said.

Preventing the spread of the virus requires that authorities quickly track down, test, isolate and treat suspected cases. The protection of health workers and education of the population about hygiene measures are also important tasks, experts say.

"The first case and possibly the index case, a 39-year-old male, presented onset of symptoms on 22 April, 2017, and deceased on arrival at the health facility," a WHO statement said.

"Two contacts of this case are being investigated: a person who took care of him during transport to the health care facility, he has since developed similar symptoms, and a moto-taxi driver who transported the patient to the health care facility," the statement added, noting that the taxi worker had died.

In addition, two more people in the area have been identified as suspected cases in the last 24 hours, bringing the total number of cases to 11, WHO's Congo spokesman Eugene Kabambi told Reuters. Three of them have died of fever.

“We must engage with local communities so they understand that this is a virus unlike any other, it is very contagious and deadly,” Kabambi told Reuters. “We are engaging with village heads and community leaders so we can all work together and stop the virus from spreading.”

The worst outbreak of Ebola killed more than 11,300 people in the West African countries of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia and infected more than 28,000. It peaked in late 2014 causing global alarm and claiming more than 40 lives in the DRC alone but active virus transmission ended last year.

WHO has faced criticism in the past for its failure to tackle outbreaks due to its slow response.

The latest Ebola outbreak is Congo's eighth, the most of any country. The deadly hemorrhagic fever was first detected in its dense tropical forests in 1976 and named after the nearby river Ebola.

That experience helped Congolese authorities respond effectively to an outbreak in 2014 that killed dozens of people.

The GAVI global vaccine alliance said on Friday some 300,000 emergency doses of an experimental Ebola vaccine developed by Merck could be available in case of a large-scale outbreak and that it stood ready to support the Congo government on the matter. Trials of the vaccine have shown high effectiveness and could prevent a repeat of past deadlier outbreaks.

  • Countries: Africa