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Health Workers Say DRC Ebola Epidemic on Decline


A new case of the deadly Ebola virus has been confirmed in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Twenty-five people have now been confirmed to carry the disease, but health workers say they are slowly winning the battle against the epidemic. Selah Hennessy reports from the VOA West and Central Africa bureau in Dakar.

WHO spokeswoman in DRC, Christiana Salvi, says the Ebola epidemic is slowly being contained.

"We are observing a decrease in the number of suspect cases and deaths reported," she said.

But Salvi says the new case, which was identified in Kapungu, shows the fight is not over. Kapungu, a village of around 9,000 population, has been at the center of the outbreak.

"This is an important piece of news because this means that the virus is still circulating there and that we cannot say that the epidemic is over," said the spokeswoman. "We still have to wait at least incubation period and two incubation periods to be clear the epidemic is over."

Salvi says the epidemic will not be over until a period of 42 days passes without a new case.

She says the new victim, a woman, took herself to an isolation ward after realizing she had symptoms common to Ebola.

"This is very important because this shows how the social mobilization is working, because people are aware of the risks and the disease, and so they can themselves detect the signs of illness and go to the health authorities," said Salvi.

Congo's health ministry, with support from international organizations, has been distributing Ebola leaflets to the population and airing radio and television programs about the virus.

Ebola is only one of several diseases, including shigella, typhoid, and malaria, which has struck the southwestern province West Kasai.

"We have five samples positive for shigella and so this is another piece of new information confirming that there are other epidemics which are currently present in that area," said Salvi.

Ten people are known to have died from the Ebola virus during this outbreak. But nearly 200 people have died in West Kasai since the beginning of summer, from suspected Ebola and other diseases.

Experts do not know how the Ebola outbreak began. They suspect it may have originally come from an infected animal, and then spread during burial ceremonies, where people typically touch the deceased body.

There is no vaccine or cure for ebola and 50-90 percent of people infected die. To contain the virus, those who test positive are isolated.

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