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DRC Confirms Ebola Outbreak

A laboratory specialist examines specimens of the Ebola virus at the Uganda virus research centre in Entebbe, May 17, 2011.
KINSHASA — The Democratic Republic of Congo DRC has confirmed an outbreak of Ebola fever in the northeast of the country. The announcement follows confirmation of an outbreak of the incurable disease in Uganda last month.

DRC Health Minister Felix Kabange Numbi confirmed the Ebola outbreak in the Orientale Province.

Kabange says they had been monitoring several suspected cases of Ebola in Isiro in Haut Uele district in the past few weeks. Several blood samples tested positive and, in one case, the virus has been identified as so-called Bundibugyo Ebola - a strain of the disease associated with Uganda’s outbreak.

The health minister says a 15 cases have been identified in Isiro, a town of some 200,000 people in north eastern Congo, about 250 kilometers from the Ugandan border. Nine people have died and another 88 have been identified as having had exposure to those with Ebola.

The minister says those cases are being monitored and they are isolated in their homes, for now. He says an infected person’s disease is not contagious until the person shows symptoms and only then would they consider quarantine.

Officials in Kinshasa are concerned that health workers in Isiro may refuse to admit people showing Ebola symptoms to clinics or hospitals for fear of being infected. It is believed that at least one of the 15 presumed Ebola victims was a nurse.

The health minister says protective clothing is being sent to health workers in Isiro and that people leaving the town will be screened at the airport and at other exit points.

He says the authorities have informed the airport of the symptoms of Ebola and anyone suspected of having the virus will not be allowed to board a plane, but will be examined by a team of doctors.

Symptoms include headache, loss of appetite, intense tiredness, muscular pain, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pains and difficulties in breathing or swallowing.

A team to coordinate response to the disease has been set up in Isiro. International health groups participating include Doctors Without Borders and the U,S. Centers for Disease Control.