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WHO Confirms Ebola Outbreak in Congo

The World Health Organization says it has confirmed the presence of the deadly Ebola virus in Mbomo, a remote area in the northern part of the Republic of the Congo. It has sent a team of international experts to the area to investigate the source of the disease.

The World Health Organization says three of its doctors left the Congolese capital, Brazzaville on Friday. They are expected to arrive in Mbomo, a region near the Gabon border over the weekend.

The Congolese Ministry of Health says 13 people are suspected of having contracted the disease. Eleven have died.

A WHO spokeswoman, Fadela Chaib, says her agency first learned about a possible outbreak of Ebola in late October. She says blood samples were taken from people with symptoms earlier this week, and the tests proved positive.

"We got the confirmation that this viral hemorrhage fever in Mbomo in Congo is Ebola," she said. "We got the confirmation from the laboratory… It is very similar to what happened in the two last years. But, WHO is not really worried about what is going on now because WHO believes it is a small outbreak and can be rapidly contained. And now, this region is used to this hemorrhagic fever. So, in fact they know how to protect themselves, especially health workers. They know how to protect themselves from being infected."

Mbomo and the neighboring district of Kelle were stricken with Ebola in late 2002. The epidemic lasted until May of this year. Of the 143 people who became ill with the disease, 128 died. At that time, WHO traced the probable cause of the Ebola outbreak to dead monkeys, which were eaten by the people in the communities.

Ebola is a highly contagious disease. It is transmitted through body fluids. Between 50 percent and 90 percent of its victims die.