KINSHASA (Reuters) - Health experts have identified two more suspected cases of Ebola in Democratic Republic of Congo, a day after the government declared an outbreak of the disease that has killed one man, the U.N. health agency said on Saturday.
Government and World Health Organization (WHO) officials reached a remote area of Bas-Uele province in northeastern Congo near the border with Central African Republic on Saturday for a field investigation, WHO said.
Experts say to prevent the spread of the virus they must quickly track down, test, isolate and treat suspected cases. They also need to protect health workers and educate the population about hygiene measures.
“The first case and possibly the index case, a 39-year-old male, presented onset of symptoms on 22 April, 2017, and deceased on arrival at the health facility,” a WHO statement said.
“Two contacts of this case are being investigated: a person who took care of him during transport to the health care facility, he has since developed similar symptoms, and a moto-taxi driver who transported the patient to the health care facility,” it said, adding that the taxi driver had died.
In addition, two more people in the area have been identified as suspected cases in the last 24 hours, bringing the total number of cases to 11, WHO’s Congo spokesman Eugene Kabambi told Reuters. Three of them have died of fever.
The worst outbreak of Ebola killed more than 11,300 people in the West African countries of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia and infected more than 28,000. It peaked in late 2014 causing global alarm but active virus transmission ended last year.
The latest Ebola outbreak is Congo’s eighth, the most of any country. The deadly hemorrhagic fever was first detected in its dense tropical forests in 1976 and named after the nearby river Ebola.
That experience helped Congolese authorities respond effectively to an outbreak in 2014 that killed dozens of people.
The GAVI global vaccine alliance said on Friday some 300,000 emergency doses of an Ebola vaccine developed by Merck could be available in case of a large-scale outbreak and that it stood ready to support the Congo government on the matter.
Reporting by Aaron Ross; Writing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg; Editing by Ros Russell