Ebola claims three more lives in DR Congo, raising death toll to 14

September 6th, 2012 - 9:28 pm ICT by BNO News  

KINSHASA, DR CONGO (BNO NEWS) — An outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus in the northeastern region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo has claimed three more lives, raising the total death toll since the outbreak began to fourteen, local and international health authorities said on Wednesday.

The Congolese Ministry of Health said the number of confirmed and suspected Ebola cases has risen to 28, including 14 fatalities. The epicenter of the outbreak is the town of Isiro, located in the province of Orientale which borders the Central African Republic and South Sudan to the north and Uganda to the east.

As of Monday, eleven fatalities and seven other cases were reported in Isiro. Three deaths and seven other cases have been reported in the Viadana region, including one fatal case in the town of Dungu which is located approximately 139 kilometers (86 miles) northeast of Isiro.

“All alerts have been investigated and so far Ebola has not been reported from outside Isiro and Viadana health zones,” the World Health Organization (WHO) said in a statement on Wednesday. It said samples taken from eight cases so far have tested positive for the Bundibugyo species of the deadly Ebola virus.

Also on Wednesday, the United Nations (UN) launched an emergency appeal for $2 million to fight the Ebola outbreak, warning that the disease could spread and have a global impact if not quickly controlled. The first case was reported on August 1 and some experts have expressed concern that the disease may spread further because the affected towns are remote but busy and the country’s health system is poor.

As soon as the Ebola outbreak was discovered, the Congolese Ministry of Health (MoH) set up a national task force to coordinate the response and is also working with international health agencies. A joint MoH, WHO and Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) emergency response team is already in the area to conduct a detailed epidemiological investigation and case management.

An international team comprised of epidemiologists, logisticians, anthropologists and social mobilization officers has also been mobilized and deployed to the area. “Control activities that are being carried out include active case finding and contact tracing, enhanced surveillance, case management, public information and social mobilization and reinforcing infection control practices,” the WHO said earlier.

The outbreak in DR Congo is unrelated to an outbreak in Uganda in July, where a different strain of Ebola killed at least sixteen people and infected up to eight others. Ugandan health authorities have said the outbreak there is under control, with no new confirmed cases since August 4.

Ebola is a highly infectious disease and kills its victims in a very short time, but the virus can easily be confused with many other diseases. The signs and symptoms include high grade fever, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, headache, measles-like rash, red eyes, and in some cases bleeding from body openings.

The virus, for which there is no cure or vaccine, can spread through direct contact with body fluids such as saliva, blood, stool, vomit, urine and sweat, but also through soiled linen used by an infected person. It can also spread by using skin piercing instruments previously used by an infected person or by touching the dead body of a person who died of Ebola.

Before the outbreaks in DR Congo and Uganda, the last known case of Ebola was reported in May 2011 when a 12-year-old girl died in a town near the Ugandan capital of Kampala. Despite initial fears of an epidemic, and the Kenyan Ministry of Health issuing an alert to people living near the Ugandan border, no other cases were recorded.

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