Congolese Health Minister Alain Moka said the toll from the outbreak had risen to 11, from the nine deaths he reported on November 7, when he had said Ebola was only the suspected cause of the disease.
   
"It's clearly an Ebola epidemic," Moka told reporters in the capital Brazzaville on Saturday. "Laboratory analysis of samples taken from those affected confirm the presence of the Ebola
virus," he said.

The health minister said the disease had broken out again near Mbomo, some 700 km (440 miles) north of the central African nation's capital Brazzaville and just across the border from Gabon.

Ebola has killed 73 people in Gabon and the Congo from October 2001 to February 2002.

Ebola is passed on by infected body fluids and kills between 50 and 90% of victims depending on the strain. The disease damages the blood vessels and can cause bleeding, diarrhoea and shock. There is no known cure for the disease.

Officials believe this latest outbreak started after a group of hunters ate a dead boar they found in the forest.

Scientists believe the previous Ebola outbreak in the region around Mbomo, known as Cuvette-Ouest, was also caused by the consumption of bushmeat, which is a staple among forest communities and a delicacy in many cities.
   
Ebola has killed 73 people in Gabon and the Congo from October 2001 to February 2002.
   
The disease is named after a river in the Democratic Republic of Congo where it was discovered in 1976. The worst outbreak was in that country in 1995 when more than 250 died.