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Response to Congo's new Ebola outbreak 'highly complex'

05 August 2018

According to the health ministry, the latest outbreak has already claimed the lives of 20 people, including two health workers and comes only nine days after an outbreak in the western part of the country, in Equateur province, was officially declared over. It says 20 people have died from a hemorrhagic fever.

Four cases of the virus were confirmed in northeastern North Kivu province, the DRC's health minister said in a statement on Wednesday, though there was no indication they were linked to the country's previous - and ninth - Ebola outbreak in northwestern Equateur Province. This latest outbreak is the 10th since the first one was discovered in 1976.

"It would appear that the risk, as we can surmise for DRC, is high".

The global health agency's emergencies director says 3,000 vaccine doses are still in Congo's capital after being positioned there for an earlier outbreak in the northwest that was declared over last week.

Ever since it was discovered near the Ebola River in northern Congo, the country has seen 10 outbreaks of the virus since 1976, nearly twice as many epidemics as other nations.

"This is the second outbreak of Ebola in DRC we have seen this year. For the region it's high given the proximity to borders, particularly Uganda", said WHO's emergency response chief Peter Salama. Once present in humans, it causes haemorrhagic fever, vomiting and diarrhoea and is spread through direct contact with body fluids. Eastern Congo is a tinderbox of conflicts over land and ethnicity stoked by decades of on-off war and this could hamper efforts to contain the virus.

Health officials have given new details about how the latest outbreak came to light.

The vaccine in question is manufactured by Merck, the minister said.

If it is the Zaire strain, the Merck vaccine used in the last outbreak may be an option, otherwise the situation will be much more complex "and we may not have any vaccine options", he told Reuters at WHO's headquarters in Geneva.

Health officials have blocked off the village of Mangina, where four cases have been confirmed.

The Ministry has also reactivated surveillance teams and task forces at Uganda's different border points with Congo to control movements and conduct screening for those entering the country.

Response to Congo's new Ebola outbreak 'highly complex'