The World Health Organization, WHO, is continuing its investigation of several suspected cases of the deadly Ebola virus in the Republic of Congo. The WHO has said the affected area is in a region that only recently recovered from an Ebola epidemic.

WHO spokeswoman Melinda Henry said three experts are investigating six suspected cases of acute hemorrhagic fever in the Mbomo district in the western part of Congo. Five patients have died.

Ms. Henry said the experts will look for more cases, trace anyone who may have come in contact with the sick people, and collect blood samples.

She said the blood samples will be sent for analysis to a laboratory in neighboring Gabon. She said it will take up to 24 hours for the samples to verify or confirm the presence of Ebola. "Until we have laboratory confirmation, we cannot call it Ebola. But obviously that is what they are checking for, given the past history in that area," Ms. Henry said.

An outbreak of Ebola fever occurred in Mbomo in December. The epidemic, which struck 122 people and killed 95, was declared over in April.

Ebola is highly contagious. The virus is not airborne, but is spread by infected bodily fluids. There is no known cure for the disease which kills up to 90 percent of its victims by causing massive internal bleeding.

Ms. Henry said Mbomo is near a tropical forest area where gold mining is conducted. "We believe that some of these patients actually went to this area and could have come in contact with an infected animal. Recently, there have been quite a few reports of dead wild animals in this gold-mining tropical forest area. So, we think that could possibly be at the root of this new introduction of the virus," Ms. Henry said.

But, WHO spokeswoman Henry said the health agency does not know the source of the disease. She said it could be an insect, a bat, or other mammal.