The World Health Organization says eight new cases of the deadly Ebola virus have been confirmed in the Democratic Republic of Congo. This brings the number of confirmed cases to 17 since the new outbreak was first identified earlier this month. Kari Barber has more from VOA's West and Central Africa bureau in Dakar.

WHO spokeswoman in DRC, Christiana Salvi, says the eight new cases came from 42 samples taken from the central West Kasai region.

She says she is hopeful new mobile laboratories, which health officials are to begin using in the next couple of days, will help speed up diagnosis of the highly contagious disease. Without the mobile labs, samples are being sent abroad for analysis.

"From that time on we will be able to have a much more ready diagnosis for the samples," Salvi said. "That will help us tremendously to understand which cases of Ebola are confirmed and to isolate them appropriately in order to break the chain of transmission."

Six of the 17 people to contract the disease in what the World Health Organization is calling the first major resurgence in years have died.

Ebola is characterized by vomiting, diarrhea, fever, pain as well as internal and external bleeding.

About 400 people have become ill in the affected Kasai region in the past few months and about 170 have died. But the symptoms of Ebola look like other diseases, such as typhoid, so proper identification is crucial.

Salvi says because the area is so remote, getting word out about how to avoid contracting Ebola is a challenge. The World Health Organization is working with journalists on media campaigns to warn against contact with body fluids and blood.

"There is quite a good alert in the population who is quite aware of battling the risk of transmission," she said.

Salvi says health workers are also urging people to report to authorities anyone who might be sick with the virus.

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

In the nation's last major outbreak of Ebola in 1995, 245 people died.