An outbreak of the Ebola virus is suspected to have killed 17 people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in the past few weeks, according to reports.
On Tuesday, the DRC declared an outbreak of the disease after two of five samples from patients in the Bikoro region tested positive for Ebola.
“Over the last few weeks, 17 deaths as a result of hemorrhagic fever have been reported in the health zone of Bikoro, Equator Province, in Democratic Republic of Congo,” Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) said in a statement shared with Global Citizen. “After the testing of five samples from this health zone, the National Institute for Biological Research of DRC has confirmed that two have tested positive for the Ebola virus.”
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The Ebola virus was first discovered in the DRC in the 1970s, and is named after the Ebola River. It can be transmitted to humans directly through being bit by a bat or indirectly through the consumption of other animals (often called “bushmeat”) infected with the virus, according to Robert Nasi, Deputy Director General of the Center for International Forestry Research.
This is the ninth time the DRC has declared an outbreak of the ebola virus, CNN reports. The most recent outbreak occurred in July 2017, but the outbreak was contained in 42 days — with only four confirmed deaths.
Between 2014 and 2016, ebola killed more than 10,000 people in West Africa.
Experts hope the current outbreak in DRC can be contained because of the remote nature of the affected area.
Aid groups, including MSF, are currently working on the ground to monitor the outbreak.
“MSF’s DRC Emergency Team is already on-site and has been supporting the Ministry of Health to deploy a rapid and tailored response to the emergency since last Saturday,” MSF wrote to Global Citizen. “MSF will continue to adapt its response according to the needs on the ground.”
The World Health Organization (WHO) also released $1 million in emergency response funds to help with the outbreak.
“Our top priority is to get to Bikoro to work alongside the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and partners to reduce the loss of life and suffering related to this new Ebola virus disease outbreak,” WHO Deputy Director-General Peter Salama said in a statement. “Working with partners and responding early and in a coordinated way will be vital to containing this deadly disease.”
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