Health officials in the Democratic Republic of Congo have confirmed another outbreak of the deadly Ebola Virus. Samples taken from a southern province, where authorities have reported more than 100 deaths in the past four months, have tested positive to the disease. Selah Hennessy reports from the VOA West and Central Africa bureau in Dakar.
World Health Organization spokesman Gregory Hartl says five samples taken from the Kasai Occidental Province have tested positive to the Ebola Virus.
He says the situation needs to be taken extremely seriously. "Ebola grabs the headlines because it is so contagious and so fatal for people who catch it and there are no known vaccines or treatments for it," he said.
He says WHO and other organizations are sending teams to the field now. "What is very important with Ebola is to identify and isolate cases as rapidly as possible. You have to construct special isolation units and ensure that the people treating the Ebola patients are wearing the proper type of protective equipment. And very importantly with people in the community you need to educate them as to what Ebola is, how it can be transmitted and how you can stop yourself from contracting it," he said.
More than 100 people have died in the southern province during the past four months and until now the cause of the epidemic was unknown.
But Hertl says Ebola may not be the only disease ravaging the province. He says other viral hemorrhagic fevers may also be present in the region. "The symptoms and descriptions of this disease could have been several things and we still think that there might be several different diseases involved here," he said.
He says it is important that cases are diagnosed correctly so that people can be given the appropriate care. "WHO would then onsite coordinate efforts to diagnose cases and to differentiate between cases of Ebola, shigella, typhoid and other diseases which are possibly occurring at the moment in the region and to treat them appropriately but separately because we want to make sure that all cases are accurately diagnosed," he said.
In an interview in Congo's capital Kinshasa, Information Minister Toussaint Tshilombo said the area had been quarantined, but that the disease may already have spread.
Ebola is a highly infectious disease which can be transmitted between humans by contact with bodily fluids, including blood and semen.
Symptoms of Ebola, which kills between 50 percent and 90 percent of those infected, includes vomiting, diarrhoea, jaundice, and bleeding.
According to a report published by WHO, of those recently taken ill in the Congo, more than half are children aged 10 and younger.