No fewer than 17 people have died in an area of northwestern Democratic Republic of Congo following a fresh outbreak of Ebola, officials say.
It is the ninth time Ebola has been recorded in the central African nation, whose eastern Ebola river gave the deadly virus its name when it was discovered there in the 1970s, and comes less than a year after its last outbreak which killed eight people.
“Our country is facing another epidemic of the Ebola virus, which constitutes an international public health emergency,” the Health Ministry said in a statement.
“We still dispose of the well trained human resources that were able to rapidly control previous epidemics.”
Ebola is believed to be spread over long distances by bats, and is often spreads to humans via infected bushmeat.
Before the outbreak was confirmed, local health officials reported 21 patients showing signs of hemorrhagic fever around the village of Ikoko Impenge, near the town of Bikoro. Seventeen of those later died.
Medical teams supported by the World Health Organization and medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) were dispatched to the zone on Saturday and took five samples from suspected active cases, of which two tested positive for the Zaire strain of the Ebola virus, the ministry said.
The worst Ebola epidemic in history ended in West Africa just two years ago after killing more than 11,300 people and infected some 28,600 as it ravaged Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.
Health experts credit an awareness of the disease among the population and local medical staff’s experience treating for past successes containing its spread.