The Democratic Republic of Congo said as many as 13 people have died of Ebola in a separate outbreak from the one raging in three West African nations. It is the sixth reported outbreak in that country since 1976.
Laboratory tests in two cases were positive for Ebola in a remote village in the northwestern corner of the country, and 11 other deaths are suspected of being from the virus, said Lambert Mende, the country's information minister, in a telephone interview yesterday.
The strain of Ebola in Congo is different to the one seen in West Africa, according to Mende. Among the dead are a doctor and four nurses, he said.
The area where the deaths occurred is "under quarantine," Mende said. "No one will enter, no will leave."
The outbreak in Congo comes as global health officials are struggling to quell an eruption in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea that is the worst yet. The disease has killed more than 1,400 people in the three countries since December, a number on track to surpass the total for all previous outbreaks combined.
In Nigeria, five people have died of Ebola since last month, while five have been discharged after recovering and four are still being treated in the commercial capital, Lagos.
Congo's confirmed cases occurred in the village of Gera in the Equateur province. The region is mostly jungle and located in the northwestern portion of the country near the Republic of Congo, away from the country's copper-mining industry, which is the largest in Africa.
In addition to erecting a treatment center in Gera, Congo's government has set up a committee that includes international medical organizations to coordinate a response to the outbreak, Mende said.
The country has also banned hunting in the area, Mende said. The disease is believed to reside in fruit bats, who can infect humans through bodily secretions. Humans pass it on through contact with infected bodily fluids.
This is Congo's first outbreak in two years. The viral disease, which has no proven cure or vaccine, was first reported in 1976 in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan. Since then, the area has had four other outbreaks of the viral disease, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.