The first Ebola death was confirmed in a new outbreak and 11 people have now been infected by the deadly virus in Democratic Republic of Congo, including three health workers.
The announcement by Health Minister Oly Ilunga on Thursday came as five new suspected cases of Ebola were also reported in Congo’s northwestern town of Bikoro, where an outbreak of the deadly virus was declared this week.
“One of the defining features of this epidemic is the fact that three health professionals have been affected,” Ilunga said in a statement. “This situation worries us and requires an immediate and energetic response.”
Two nurses who were in contact with patients are also among five suspected cases, Bikoro Hospital director Dr Serge Ngalebato said.
Another is a woman from Ikoko Impenge, the epicentre of the outbreak some 30km from Bikoro, he said.
“We have isolated the patients … All of the sick are presenting signs of fever, diarrhoea, vomiting, abdominal pain and intense fatigue,” Ngalebato said.
Before Thursday’s statement by Ilunga, two cases of the Zaire strain of Ebola had been confirmed in the region.
This is the ninth Ebola outbreak in Congo since 1976, when the deadly disease was first identified.
There is no specific treatment for Ebola, which is spread through the bodily fluids of people exhibiting symptoms. Without preventive measures, the virus can spread quickly between people and is fatal in up to 90 percent of cases.
The director of the National Institute of Biological and Bacterial Research, Dr Jean Jacques Muyembe, said on Wednesday health experts should be able to quickly contain this outbreak because the area is so remote.
The Ebola cases were confirmed after officials in the capital, Kinshasa, were alerted early this month to the deaths of 17 people from a hemorrhagic fever in recent weeks. However, those cases were not confirmed through testing. There are various hemorrhagic fevers – including Ebola.
The cases are likely linked to a policeman in the Bikoro health zone who presented symptoms of hemorrhagic fever and died in December, Muyembe said. His mother and 10 others then showed similar symptoms.
None of the Ebola outbreaks in Congo were connected to the massive outbreak in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone in West Africa that began in 2014 and left more than 11,300 dead.